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Shadyside 100th season celebration brings back a lot of memories

SHADYSIDE — Friday night was one of those events you wish never had to end.

Whether it was the reminiscing, the stories, the memories, the old faces or just the catching up, there was something for everyone, but especially for those who graduated from Shadyside High School.

Upwards of 230 former Tiger football alumni returned to Fleming Field to help the school and community celebrate the cherished 100th season of football.

Whether it was one of the two trips to the state title game, the three regional titles, one of the 14 OVAC titles or simply who scored the most important touchdown in a game to beat rival St. John Central, the stories were coming in droves.

Though some of those stories may have been exaggerated or altered over time, there was one common thread. Teammates, classmates and buddies, many of whom have remained that way many years after graduation, all agreed on one thing …their years playing football for Shadyside were some of the best of their lives.

“Shadyside football brings our community together each fall,” current Superintendent of schools and former Tiger gridder John Haswell said. “Shadyside football set the foundation for my life as far as what hard work, sacrifice and teamwork. Those have served me well throughout my life.”

Haswell was a standout player himself and pointed out the last-second touchdown that it took against River in 1982 to secure the OVAC title for the Tigers as one of his fondest memories.

“Some of my best memories of athletics center around Shadyside football,” Haswell continued. “The friendships made being part of a team last a lifetime.”

Proving how much Shadyside football means to those who wore the Orange and Black isn’t just the total number of players who returned, but also how far some of them came. Some came from Florida, Texas, Virginia and all over the tri-state area to be part of such a historical night.

Highly successful head coach Ty Fleming had two tours of duty at the helm of the Tigers’ program. He was also a standout player there and is now a member of the OVAC Hall of Fame.

“Shadyside football has been a part of my life and body,” Fleming said. “I was at the field constantly whether it was football, baseball or track there in the late 50s.”

Fleming’s two brothers — Don and Denny — were also highly regarded players. Both played at the University of Florida and Don is the Fleming for whom the field is named.

“I never considered (coaching) a job and it was something I always wanted to do,” Fleming said. “I had great coaches in high school and I kind of idolized them. I just wanted to follow in their footsteps and I was fortunate to have great kids, who the parents allowed us to coach.”

Fleming guided the Tigers to a regional title in each of his tenures and their first appearance in the state title game. He’s the all-time winningest coach in school history.

“We had some growing pains and it took a while (the second time around), but the younger kids bought in and the program really hasn’t looked back since then,” Fleming said. “Even when we did have lean years, people would still come and support us. We have a great following of adults, who follow us through thick and thin.”

Brent Burkhart was the quarterback of the first Shadyside team to qualify for the playoffs. That also happened to be the year that the Tigers advanced to the state semifinals. After a 9-1 regular season, Shadyside took down Symmes Valley and Franklin Furnace Green before falling to McDonald.

“The tradition and how much everybody loves (football) and all of the teams here is what makes (Shadyside) so special,” Burkhart said. “Everyone coming up wants to be better than the group that came before them. There’s some pressure, especially over the last 30-some years because success breeds success.”

Pat Miller, who graduated in 1979, is one the most talented athletes to come out of Shadyside. An OVAC Hall of Famer and state champion in track and field, Miller returned from Hilliard to be a part of the events.

“It’s a great opportunity to see old friends and meet some new people,” Miller said. “I had a lot of great memories here, throughout high school. I owe everything I’ve received (in terms of accolades and honors) to Shadyside. It’s a great place. I look in the newspaper every week to follow how Shadyside is doing and I still get disappointed when they lose, but they certainly win a lot more than they lose.”

Mark Holenka, a 1971 graduate of Shadyside High School, didn’t have a lot of time to spend chatting with his classmates and buddies during the events surrounding the game because of his duties as head coach.

“It was really a neat thing because the (current) players are playing for the tradition that was formed before them and wearing the same jersey that these guys put on years ago,” Holenka said.

Like so many who grew up in Shadyside, Holenka — as a youngster — couldn’t wait to get to the field on Friday night to watch his beloved Tigers.

“I can remember watching Ed Roman, Nick Marzella, Jay Circosta and those guys playing when I was a young kid,” Holenka said. “Watching football wasn’t as fun anywhere else like it was, for me, in Shadyside.”

Holenka admits though coaching at Shadyside has had its fair share of challenges. But, they’re good challenges.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Holenka said. “The support and community backing is great, but that’s where the other end of the sword comes into it. It’s a place that doesn’t accept losses and there are times when you wonder if there is going to be a suitcase in your front yard on Saturday morning, but the fact that the community, fans and alumni take it as serious as they do puts that much more importance on it and makes it great.”

While Circosta is a player that Holenka remembers watching shine in the Orange and Black growing up is a guy he coached against several times, too.

Circosta, a Class of 2019 OVAC Hall of Famer, etched one of the greatest coaching resumes in Ohio Valley history between Woodsfield and Monroe Central. And although he wanted to beat Shadyside in the worst way each year, the other nine weeks, he found himself pulling for his alma mater.

“It’s special because it’s home,” Circosta said. “Every time we came back here or we played Shadyside at Monroe, you always wanted to do your best against where you came from. That made it special. We had a lot of good games over the years.”

Circosta, who graduated high school in 1963, was on hand for the tailgate party ahead of time and left shortly after halftime to watch the rest of his grandson’s game at Magnolia.

“This was the first time in 52 years that I missed the start of a Woodsfield or Monroe Central game, but I wanted to be a part of this,” Circosta said. “Our players at Monroe knew how special the Shadyside game was to me and that I wanted to win in the worst way and I think they annually gave a little bit more that week.”

Oh, by the way, while the stories were told in the south end zone, the Tigers notched their fourth win of the season and 573 in program history, 40-6, over River.

Staskey can be reached via email at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com or at twitter.com/TLSportsSeth

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