Another area grid season is complete
What began in the heat of August ended last Saturday night in the bitter cold.
Shadyside's loss signified the end of another area football season. It didn't come without many memories.
The Tigers were one of five area teams to qualify for the postseason. They were joined by Beallsville, Bellaire, Martins Ferry and St. Clairsville.
While the loss is especially stinging for the Tigers' seniors, the program is in a solid state.
Obviously, Mark Holenka is one heck of a coach. All he's done since taking over for the highly successful Ty Fleming is win with regularity.
He's also dealt with staff changes since he took over, but replaced key departures and the Tigers coaching staff didn't miss a beat.
Remember, this season was one that Holenka viewed as a possible transition season. The Tigers broke in a new offensive system, utilizing a power run game instead of a more wide open attack.
It worked wonders.
On top of the new system, the Tigers roster was loaded with underclassmen. Don't get me wrong, the seniors were leaders and played a key part in the success and leave some big holes to fill.
But, there aren't that many holes.
Shadyside stampeded its way through its first 12 games before running into Trimble on Saturday.
It was the first time all season that Shadyside had been punched in the mouth. The Tigers delivered their fair share of punches as well, but Trimble punched back, which hadn't happened probably since the third quarter of the Bellaire game.
As it does after you spend the better part of four months with the same group of guys working to achieve a common goal, emotion ran high after the game.
There were tears shed and a lot of hugs shared, but at some point, whether it's today, this week or sometime down the road in their lives, the 2013 Tigers will look back at their accomplishments and realize what a special season it was.
A third 10-0 season, another OVAC title and one of the most successful seasons on the stat sheet ever produced by an area team can't - and won't - be defined by Saturday's loss.
Unfortunately, once the tournament begins, every team except for seven will shed the same tears the Shadyside, Martins Ferry, Monroe Central, St. Clairsville and Beallsville all let loose after their respective seasons came to a close this month.
A major congratulations deserves to be sent to Monroe Central and Beallsville. Those schools - as well as River - were dealt a tough hand because voters shot down a levy, which led to massive staff reductions, pay to participate and forced changes in transportation.
Perseverance is one of the main traits that high school athletics can teach high school students. It was safe to say that all three schools displayed it.
Monroe Central and Beallsville both qualified for the playoffs. The Seminoles went on the road and shocked then undefeated Centerburg before running into the buzzsaw known as Columbus Bishop Ready the following week.
Jay Circosta is one of the top coaches in Ohio and he proved it again. He had several of his assistant coaches opt not to coach, his team started 0-2 and none of it mattered. The Seminoles just did what they've done since the school opened, and that's win with regularity.
Beallsville had just 19 players come out for the team this season, but at the Blue Devils' media day in August, head coach Paul Kanzigg told me and Bubba Kapral that he honestly believed his team would be better than people thought.
It wasn't coach speak. He looked at his schedule and pointed out games against Madonna, Shadyside and Donahue as the three toughest. He wasn't kidding because the Blue Devils opened against Madonna and were drubbed. But, the Blue Dons have drubbed every one they've faced other than Steubenville Catholic.
The Blue Devils finished 6-4 and earned their way into the Division VII, Region 25 playoffs. They were eliminated by Trimble, 61-0, in the opening round, but to even put themselves in that position tells you a little something about the Blue Devils' players and coaches.
Just a few days prior to the opening round of the playoffs, the voters in the school district shot down the levy once again. What that means for the schools and athletics ... no one seems to be sure just yet.
River didn't qualify for the playoffs, but Mike Flannery was able to rally his troops to a 4-6 record. The Pilots started 0-5 and were beaten handily in many of those outings.
When you think about every thing those three schools had to deal with, it's not hard to see why their seasons can be deemed nothing but a success.
REAL EARLY LOOK AT 2014
Obviously, Shadyside and Martins Ferry were junior laden squads, so there's no reason to believe that either of those squads will drop off too far, but as always, there were some key seniors who played big roles this season that will need to be replaced.
Keep an eye on Harrison Central. Coach Justin Kropka's team finished 5-5 with an extremely young squad. The Huskies are a team that could be a force down the road. They have an extremely talented sophomore class.
Union Local made progress though it lost its final seven games of the season. The Jets, too, played numerous underclassmen once again. A full off-season weight program under Bruce Stiles could prove highly beneficial.
Something tells me that between now and the start of doubles in August, there are going to be additional storylines to keep an eye on.
EAST DISTRICT HOSTING SEMIFINALS
Kelly Rine was on a family trip to Maryland over the weekend when he happened to check his cell phone. He had a voice mail from an OHSAA official, who had informed him that Red Devils Stadium had been chosen to host a state semifinal game.
St. Clairsville hosted Steubenville and Maysville in round two, but didn't get the call for the regional final round, so Rine thought the season was over.
The OHSAA had other ideas as it awarded St. C. the game between Trimble and Berlin Center Western Reserve.
It'll be interesting to see how many Shadyside, Beallsville and Steubenville Central fans are in attendance to watch the team that eliminated all three. Trimble has played three OVAC schools en route to the semifinals and will now play at an OVAC member.
Maybe, Tom Rataiczak will think of inviting the Tomcats to the conference.
On top of Trimble, Harrison Central played Western Reserve in week three and the Huskies were arguably Western Reserve's toughest opponent of the season. The Devils prevailed, 17-8, in Cadiz.
On top of the Saturday night game in St. Clairsville, area fans can also get their high school football fix by making the jaunt to New Philadelphia.
Woody Hayes Quaker Stadium, which hosted Shadyside and Caldwell in Week 12, will play host to Akron St. Vincent St. Mary against Columbus Marion Franklin.
If you're an Ohio State Buckeyes fan and want to catch a glimpse of the future, make the trip. SVSM features Paris Campbell and Dante Booker, both of whom have orally committed to OSU.
WEST VIRGINIA TOURNAMENT
Magnolia will need to take a vacation after the traveling its been doing in the postseason. The Blue Eagles are in taking part in this weekend's Class A state semifinals.
Coach Mark Batton's team will make a nearly 4 hour trip to Charmco W.Va. to take on Greenbrier West.
When you add in the trip to Charleston's Laidley Field in the first round and last Saturday's venture to Moorefield, the Blue Eagles have trekked 534 miles one way and not left their state.
Consider this, to drive from New Martinsville to New York City is only 444 miles and to Myrtle Beach is 551 miles.
This kind of travel isn't fair to the players or fans, especially to play in some second-rate facilities.
I realize West Virginia is a much smaller state - in terms of population and schools - than Ohio, but there has to be some way to make the travel a bit more even. Find a neutral site after the first round that is as close to the middle point between the two schools as possible.
And at least play the state semifinals on turf. The weather is turning nasty this time of the year and it's unfair to the players on either side to play a game on natural grass at this time of the year.
Don't expect any major changes anytime soon from the WVSSAC. Remember, it's the group that lets basketball teams lose a tournament game and continue playing.
I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!