Shadyside seeks to continue its mastery over rival River
SHADYSIDE — To say Shadyside has had River’s number since the turn of the century would not be an understatement.
The Tigers have lost to the Pilots just once in 14 meetings. They’ll look to continue that success rate on Friday night at Fleming Field when they celebrate homecoming — literally and figuratively.
For the first time since the season opener against Martins Ferry, Shadyside will play on its home turf. Since the Tigers have been away, they’ve reeled off four consecutive wins, including last week’s cherished 33-21 victory against Wheeling Central.
“We have to keep our intensity up,” Shadyside head coach Mark Holenka said. “My biggest concern isn’t necessarily a letdown because of last week’s win, but because of keeping the kids’ minds focused on the game and not get caught up in the homecoming festivities. Winning on Friday always makes that dance on Saturday much more enjoyable.”
The Pilots will make the trip north looking to spoil those plans and also snap a two-game losing skid which has saw drop decisive nods to Warren and Barnesville by a combined 94-45 score.
“Our kids keep slugging away and when you keep doing that something good is going to happen,” Pilots head coach Mike Flannery said. “I wouldn’t trade any of our guys for someone else’s. I know what these kids are capable of and I respect the attitudes they’re coming to practice each day with.”
All told, the Tigers own a 33-19 edge over the Pilots in the all-time series. They actually handed River two defeats — both on Flannery Field in Hannibal — last season. After a 27-25 win in the regular season, Shadyside returned four weeks later and won 42-9 in a regional semifinal.
Several of the faces are different either because of graduation or injury, but one key cog remains for the Tigers by the name of Wyatt Reiman. The senior has played at an exceptionally high level this season, racking up 668 yards rushing, 208 yards receiving and he’s scored an OVAC-best 122 points.
“The best way to defend Reiman is to continue to move the chains and keep him off the field,” Flannery said.
“If Shadyside has the ball, they’re dangerous in all phases of offense. We have to always account for where he is, but they have other complementary pieces that have stepped up.”
While Reiman draws much of the attention, Flannery is correct that the Tigers are not a one-man show.
Sophomore Ben Wach has taken over the quarterback duties and thrown for 357 yards and six touchdowns. Korey Beckett is a big-play threat at receiver. He’s averaging better than 30 yards per catch.
River’s defense, on the contrary, has been victimized by some big plays each of the last two weeks. Against the Shamrocks, they allowed two touchdowns that measured more than 50 yards.
“River some quality people defensively, so we need to make sure we get our hats on them and hopefully we can move the ball,” Holenka said. “We will have to score some points and hope we can hold our own defensively to try to make sure we can win without making this a shootout.”
The Pilots offense has been moving the ball and score in a myriad of ways.
Sophomore quarterback Kabel Isaly is off to a brilliant start in his first season as the starter. He leads the area with 939 yards passing. He’s thrown nine touchdowns and only been picked off once.
His favorite targets have been junior Brody Lollathin, who has caught 22 passes for 440 yards and four touchdowns. River Thompson has made 27 receptions for 253 yards, while Brody Longwell has hauled in 14 passes for 150 yards.
On the ground, Austin Creamer has emerged as the go-to-guy. He’s accumulated 443 yards and scored nine touchdowns.
“It’s tough to play against a gray fox (like Coach Flannery),” Holenka said. “They do a nice job of moving the ball. They can nickel and dime you down the field, but they pick their spots when they want to go deep. That makes them explosive when they put it all together.”