Shadyside’s 500th victory was no small feat

When anyone asks to name the premier football programs in the Ohio Valley names like Steubenville, Martins Ferry and Bellaire are the first three thrown out.

Rightfully so since all three have surpassed the 600-victory mark in their respective school’s history. Steubenville has actually eclipsed the 700 mark and its freight train of success is showing absolutely no signs of letting up.

However, there’s a school that’s always seemingly overlooked when the aforementioned discussions begin.

That being the Shadyside Tigers.

If you don’t believe me, check out the numbers because they certainly don’t lie.

Only Steubenville has more appearances in the Ohio State Championship game than the Tigers’ two.

Only the three aforementioned schools have more victories in their history. The Tigers entered the rarified air of the 500-Club last weekend with their victory against Shenandoah.

As for the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference titles, Shadyside’s nine ranks tied for sixth in coference history. The Tigers’ actually own a 10th title, but the OVAC didn’t recognize its champions in 1943 when the conference began.

Shadyside has made 12 appearances in Ohio postseason, which ranks second to Steubenville’s 23. The Woodsfield/Monroe Central consolidation ranks third with 11 trips to at least Week 11.

As stated above, the number don’t lie.

So what’s been the secret to the success over the long haul?

“Tradition lives forever,” said Ty Fleming, who is the all-time winningest coach in Tigers’ history with a 158-89 mark in his 22 years at the helm, which were broken into two tours of duty. “The kids grow up and they want to be involved and wear the Orange and Black.”

As most high school sports run, Shadyside has had its cycles of down years, but it’s not experienced a sub .500 season since Fleming’s first year back at the helm in 1999.

Since then, it’s been full steam ahead.

“We’ve really had an unbelievable streak and run of talent since 2000,” Fleming conceeded. “We’ve definitely been fortunate. Once the 2000s rolled around, the town has really been blessed.”

Fleming has seen a lot of Tiger football games in his lifetime and he couldn’t even guess at what team was the best.

However, he did point out the 1954 team, which finished 9-0 as OVAC Class A champions under the guidance of Steve “Whitey” Magyar.

“They had three guys who played Division I football on that team,” Fleming said. “They were for real. They just slaughtered everyone.”

Included on that 1954 team was future NFL player Don Fleming, for whom Shadyside’s football stadium is named. Fleming, who played at the University of Florida, was a co-captain along with Bill Corbett, who played at Purdue University. The quarterback was Frank August, who was heavily recruited by the University of Oklahoma. Bob Bittengle, who was an OVAC All-Star, was also on the squad.

Fleming pointed out teams he coached such as 1989, 2001, 2006, 2007 and last year’s club as some of the absolute best. He also touched on the school’s only perfect 10-0 season, which came in 1977 and featured players such as current assistant coach Gregg Bonar, Mark Fijalkowski, Mark Buzek, Sam Vucelich, Jim Peal, who is currently the strength coach at Butler University, and Pat Miller, who was recently inducted into the OVAC Hall of Fame.

Shadyside has had 21 head coaches in its 92-year history. Fleming and Magyar both had two tours of duty. They and the legendary Jack Berger are the only two who spent at least 10 years at the helm.

Let’s be honest, the Tigers have had their success without a steady influx of future college players or heavily recruited talent. However, they’ve had community pride and a desire to not let the groups ahead of them down by being the team that doesn’t post a winning season or qualify for the playoffs.

And, according to Fleming, there’s no substitute for that.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the small-town pride,” Fleming said. “Everyone is on the same page trying to make sure the path that their fathers, brothers and uncles placed before them continues on. We’re fortunate to have great crowds, too. Our kids see that and they want to emulate everything that they’ve seen as kids.”

The last Division I recruit to play for Shadyside was quarterback Brad Lewis, who graduated in 1997 and was an eventual Music City Bowl MVP under Don Nehlen at West Virginia. Lewis’ senior year the Tigers finished 3-7.

While the major college players haven’t come down the pike too often, good, hard-nosed players have consistently. And there’s no substitute for that.

The two Tigers’ teams that played for the state championship were upended by teams from the Midwestern Athletic Conference. In 2006, Shadyside dropped a 17-0 verdict to Maria Stein Marion Local and last season’s debacle at the hands of Delphos St. John has been well documented.

Despite coming up short of the ultimate prize, for a community the size of Shadyside to get through four rounds of the postseason is doing something no matter how you slice it or dice it.

A lot of players, coaches, administrators and fans played a role in the Tigers’ success since the prorgam’s inception in 1908.

While the names and coaches have obviously changed, the passion for Tigers’ football and most importantly Tigers’ success hasn’t waivered.

“We’re fortunate to live in an area where high school athletics mean something,” Fleming said. “I think that’s why we’ve had so many successful people come out of the Ohio Valley because of the rich traditions they grew up in.”

The continued support has been highly evident as Tigers’ alumni from far and wide seem to make their way back to the area or to Tigers’ postseason games just to show their support of their alma mater.