SHADYSIDE - Coach Mark Holenka spoke all summer of how tough of an opener Shadyside had with Meadowbrook.
Rightfully so, when you consider the Colts arrived at Fleming Field on Friday night with what they believe is the makings of a possible Division IV playoff team, while the Tigers have dealt with injuries and other issues during August.
The thing that Holenka may have undersold was his football team has plenty of key and talented pieces in its own right.
Photo by Paul Kraniak/Shadyside’s Eric Howell (26) tries to leap over Meadowbrook defenders Dalton Poland (18) and Konnor Roberts (3).
Guys like Austin Dorris, Eric Howell and Scott Hammond have become household names. That trio, along with plenty of help from guys like Luke Nardo, Logan Price, Matt Krupa, Colton Campbell and others, showed that the winning mentality makes up for a lot.
Utilizing that experience and talent, Shadyside ran its regular-season winning streak to 24 in a row and overcame a giant hurdle to begin the 2014 campaign with a hard-earned, 34-20 victory.
"It was a dogfight because I don't know where we're at just yet," Holenka said. "But, I think how we won will help us grow up a little bit. After having some misfortune in the early season, moving some people around and having a group that might have started to question themselves, you have to get your mojo back. I think this will definitely help us."
The return of the Tigers' mojo was fueled by Dorris. The Indiana commit played like you'd expect of a future Big Ten player. He accounted for 351 yards of Shadyside's offense, threw a touchdown and had an interception which preserved the outcome.
Throw in the work of Dorris' backfield mate, senior Eric Howell. He had just 44 yards rushing, but he did score three touchdowns.
Holenka and offensive coordinator Michael Kernik gave Meadowbrook a steady dose of their leaders.
"When you have horses, you need to ride them at the end," Holenka said. "Quality ball players, quality kids who come from quality families. They're thoroughbreds and you can enter the derby with those."
Meadowbrook coach Jesse Wells knew what Shadyside was all about. After all, he watched the same faces snatch a 22-20 victory last season in Byesville.
"Shadyside has a great football team and we knew that coming down here," Wells said. "There's no doubt that Dorris is the real deal. They're going to go as far as he takes them."
Meadowbrook jumped on Shadyside on the first possession, connecting on a 75-yard touchdown pass. Dalton Wiggins found senior Dylan Wood all alone for the first touchdown.
Later in the first quarter, the same Colts' tandem hooked up for a 40-yard touchdown.
The final Meadowbrook touchdown, which came with a little more than a minute to go in the third quarter, was a 45-yard hook and lateral from Wiggins to Andrew Stine, who then promptly flipped it to sophomore Trevor Stevens, who raced the final 45 yards up the sideline.
Outside of those three scoring plays, Meadowbrook accumulated 10 net yards. Shadyside's defensive line, with Hammond and Howell leading the charge, was constantly in pursuit of Wiggins, who was sacked six times and finished with minus-38 yards rushing. On top of that, Shadyside picked Wiggins off four times.
"They beat us on some basic routes (for touchdowns)," Holenka lamented. "We let them have easy scores and those usually come back and haunt you. Those easy touchdowns let them stay in the game, but I thought we adjusted well and kids stepped up and made plays. We threw Billy Johnson and Logan Cline in there and both played well."
On top of Dorris and Howell's work on the offensive side of the ball, Nardo turned in one of his best performances. He came through in a bevy of ways, scoring the first Tigers touchdown of the season on a 45-yard punt return.
He put Shadyside on top for the first time with 6:14 to go in the third quarter, when he caught a 40-yard pass from Dorris, which capped an impressive 12-play march. Nardo finished with four catches for 68 yards and, for good measure, had an interception.
Mason Campbell's third PAT made it 21-14.
"Anything coming out of the second half is big," Holenka said. "When you're able to set the tone in the third quarter, it's big. Then you get the second touchdown and it's big because you start to break morale."