Shadyside won’t be overlooking Bridgeport when it visits Friday

SHADYSIDE – Normally, Bridgeport head coach Rudy Vavrock is a man of fairly few words.

When it came to talking about Shadyside, his team’s opponent this week, he wasn’t at a loss for words in coming up with compliments for the Tigers.

“This is a big challenge for us against an 8-0 team that’s probably one of the best Division VII schools in the state of Ohio,” Vavrock said.

The Bulldogs make the trip to Fleming Field on Friday at 7 p.m. to face a Tigers’ squad, which already knows it’s not only headed to the postseason, but will be playing at home on Saturday, Nov. 2 in the opening round.

“There are certainly additional goals out there for us still to be achieved,” Shadyside head coach Mark Holenka said. “It’s nice to have other things to serve as motivation because we can’t afford to become complacent because we know there are going to be some slobber knockers down the road.”

While the Tigers are chasing their second straight 10-0 regular season and OVAC Class 2A title, the Bulldogs are seeking to put the brakes on a three-game slide. Bridgeport was beaten, 35-21, last week by Beallsville.

“We made a good run in the end of that game against Beallsville,” Vavrock said. “We’ve battled some injuries, but our kids are still working hard and preparing hard.”

Vavrock is excited that his offensive line is getting healthy and he knows that’s highly important against Shadyside, which features one of the best offensive and defensive fronts the Bulldogs have seen all season.

“They’re big and physical on both sides,” Vavrock said. “We have to be able to block them and keep their guys out of our backfield, which we realize is a big challenge.”

Shadyside’s defense has allowed just 34 points in the last four weeks of the season.

“Bridgeport is going to make us play and tackle in space,” Holenka said. “If we’re able to do that, we should be in good shape, but if not, who knows what could happen? I think their quarterback (Bailey McGrath) is a good athlete, who you always have to be concerned with.”

Junior Bailey McGrath leads the Bridgeport offensive unit, which has played without Q.J. Williams basically all season due to injury. McGrath has ran for 310 yards and four touchdowns.

He’s also thrown for 818 yards and five touchdowns.

Jacob Ray is a solid option in the backfield. He has accumulated 263 yards and scored five touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Colt Charlton has blossomed into a go-to-guy in the passing game. He has caught 19 balls for 375 yards and three touchdowns.

Shadyside’s offense isn’t the flashiest offense you’ll find, but it’s certainly effective with its run-oriented attack, which has gained 2,613 yards and generated 40 touchdowns thus far.

“We thought we would be a better running team than a passing team, but I’m not sure we anticipated this kind of success,” Holenka said. “When you put the overachievements of our line and backs together, it’s created something we’re certainly pleased with.”

The Tigers’ three-headed backfield monster is led by junior quarterback Austin Dorris. The 6-5, 220 pounder needs just 70 yards for 1,000 for the season. He’s carried the ball 100 times and scored 14 touchdowns.

He’s joined in the backfield by senior Chris Littell (80-734-9tds) and junior Eric Howell (117-765-15).

“Their backs run extremely hard,” Vavrock noted. “It’s definitely not a one-man show. All three of those guys runs the ball well. It’s difficult to prepare for because you can’t just key on one guy. We have to get more than one guy to the point of attack to bring them down.”

The Tigers’ offensive line has been nothing short of dominant. The unit is comprised of Cory Banco, Hunter Hammond, Zach Meadows, Jacob Spencer and Colton Campbell.

The Shadyside passing game has been one area where Holenka hopes to see continued improvement. Dorris has completed 30-of-59 passes for 516 yards. He’s thrown five touchdowns and a like number of interceptions.

“We threw a little more (against Union Local) and looked better,” Holenka said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Bridgeport puts 10 guys in the box, so we’ll have to see if we can spread them out some.”