Shadyside, Magnolia both bidding to bounce back

NEW MARTINSVILLE — When you talk about the cream of the crop in local small-school high school football through the years two schools that you will normally see near the top of any list are Shadyside and Magnolia.

Friday night the Tigers and Blue Eagles will meet for the fourth consecutive season, this one coming on Alumni Field at Bill Stewart Stadium, as both teams are looking to put losses last week behind them.

Coach Mark Holenka and Shadyside were pushed to the limits two years ago when they made the same trip, finally surviving for a 14-13, double-overtime, victory in 2017. The Tigers have had a little bit of an easier time in Magnolia’s two trips to Tigertown, outscoring Big Blue by a 91-34 margin.

After defeating Martins Ferry in Week 1, Shadyside watched another Ohio power, Mogadore rally late for a 28-21 victory over the Tigers last week. A night earlier Coach Dave “Doc” Chapman’s Magnolia squad fell 27-0 in its season-opener at Williamstown.

“The biggest thing coming into this one is that you have to get yourself together and put that one behind you,” Holenka said. “You can’t let one loss cause two, you have to move on, get your mojo back and continue believing in yourself.”

While Chapman doesn’t believe getting a late start to the season hindered his team, he does know it is time for his squad to improve.

“We played Williamstown and have a game under our belt now, but we can’t look behind,” Chapman said. “Yeah, we have played one less game than Shadyside, but I feel like we had an extra week of preparation also.

“I believe a team’s biggest improvement normally comes between the first two games and here we are. We will have to see what happens, but I believe the kids will respond. Most of our mistakes last week are all very correctable.”

Offensively Shadyside has relied on first-year sophomore quarterback Rhys Francis to lead the way, something Holenka and his staff wasn’t sure of heading into the campaign.

“Coach (Mike) Kernik has brought Rhys along meticulously,” Holenka said. “And he has really exceeded our expectations from preseason to the regular season so far. Hopefully he continues to grow, but sometimes the meter goes up and down on a player at times so we will have to wait and see.”

Francis has thrown for just more than 400 yards through two games with senior standout Kelly Hendershot and junior Jordan Joseph both coming up with big plays in the receiving corps along the way.

Sophomore running back Wyatt Reiman, who had a huge game against Martins Ferry in Week 1, also caught a touchdown pass last week against the Wildcats. The Shadyside defense, which limited the Purple Riders to seven points and four first downs, was stringent against Mogadore in the first half, but was killed by big plays down the stretch.

“In my opinion they are as good as they have ever been,” Chapman said about the Tigers, a perennial Ohio small-school playoff participant. “This will be the fourth year we have played against them and Coach Holenka and they are as solid in every aspect as we have seen from them on film.

“They have a pretty good football team, but that is something that you expect and usually get out of them every year. We have watched the Francis kid on tape and he throws the ball very well. He looks like a seasoned quarterback as a sophomore and you don’t see that often.

“His accuracy also stands out to us and his ability to throw guys open. They also have many weapons, including the Hendershot kid. And of course, they are very good up front which gets that running game going.

“There is no question that we are going to have to bring our “A” game, execute and definitely minimize our mistakes. They are always so very well coached and our guys know what is at hand and we have to be prepared.”

The Blue Eagles struggled mightily at Williamstown last week, finishing with 43 total yards of offense, including a 19-carry for minus-7 yards performance on the ground.

Jason Beisel was the team’s leading rusher with 11 carries for 28 yards. Junior quarterback Caden Cisar was 5 of 17 through the air for 50 yards and had minus-22 rushing yards while Silas McKeever caught two passes for 27 yards.

Magnolia’s defense allowed 483 yards of offense, including 340 yards and three touchdowns through the air.

“We know that Magnolia is always a tough football team,” Holenka said. “They are so diversified at what they do and can do so many different things on offense. I know they are a week behind everyone else, but I am expecting them to be more polished in Round 2 for them.”

Making a win even bigger for both sides is that Shadyside must travel to Wheeling Central next week while Magnolia will host one of their biggest rivals from across the bridge in River