Football: Line Play Helps Tigers Run Through Big Reds

BELLAIRE – Behind a mammoth offensive line, Shadyside literally ran over neighboring rival Bellaire by a 46-29 margin at a jam-packed Nelson Field on Saturday afternoon.

It was the first meeting between the two schools since 1950.

A trio of Shadyside ballcarriers accounted for 420 yards and six touchdowns on 55 carries, with junior quarterback Austin Dorris and classmate tailback Eric Howell leading the way with 165 and 163 yards, respectively. Both found the end zone twice. Senior Chris Littell chipped in 92 yards on 15 totes. He also scored a pair of touchdowns.

However, running backs are only as good as the linemen in front of them and the Tigers hogs were dominant. The five interior players are senior center Zach Meadows (5-11, 266), senior guard Cory Banco (6-3, 278), junior guard Jacob Spencer (5-9, 290), senior tackle Hunter Hammond (5-10, 246) and junior tackle Colton Campbell (6-3, 260).

“I’ve got to tip my hat to those guys,” Shadyside (3-0) coach Mark Holenka said while choking back tears of happiness. “They did one heckuva job.

“The (offensive) line did a tremendous job because we didn’t have to play a lot of defense in the second half. But when we did play defense, I thought we played pretty well. The last drive of the second quarter we really started playing good defense. We kind of slowed their passing game down a little.”

Bellaire coach Jose Davis agreed with the theory that games are won in the trenches.

“They manhandled us. They absolutely manhandled us,” he said. “They absolutely manhandled us. That’s the bottom line.”

Shadyside held a 26-21 edge at the half as the teams combined for 34 second-quarter points after a sluggish start, but was held on downs to start the third quarter and forced to punt.

Disaster struck the Big Reds (1-2) on their first snap as confusion on the handoff resulted in a fumble, which the Tigers’ Banco alertly pounced on at the Bellaire 45.

Nine running plays later, Littell bulled his way over from 3 yards out. The two-point pass failed, but the visitors were ahead, 32-21.

After an exchange of punts, Bellaire marched 69 yards on nine plays as senior quarterback Spencer Badia found Brendon Ross in the right flat and the senior wideout found the end zone to complete a 3-yard scoring toss. Electing to go for two, Badia rolled right and lobbed the ball into the back corner of the end zone where Nick Patrone made a leaping grab for a 32-29 reading.

Howell got some of the momentum back for the Tigers when he rambled 32 yards up the gut on the first play, moving the ball to the Bellaire 35. However, the Big Reds stopped Howell for no gain on the next two attempts, setting up a third-and-10.

Dorris faked a handoff and followed his blockers to the left. He cut back toward the middle where a group of players were entangled. Keeping his powerful legs moving, the 6-foot-5, 215-pounder emerged from the other side and raced to the end zone, completing a 35-yard scoring play and giving his a team a 38-29 advantage with just under nine minutes left to play.

“What a run by Austin,” Holenka said. “That was the game right there. He never gave up.”

On Bellaire’s ensuing possession, Badia was looking for Patrone over the middle but Shadyside’s Jake Duvall stepped in front of the pass and intercepted it.

“He may have gotten beat on a couple of slants earlier in the game, but I told him he had one big play left. That was it,” Holenka said.

Thirteen consecutive running plays netted 55 yards and eating nearly six-and-a-half minutes off the clock, keeping Bellaire’s quick-strike offense off the field.

Howell concluded the march with a 3-yard run. He also ran for the two points.

“We just have to keep on working,” Davis said of Bellaire’s porous run defense. “Sometimes it’s not about the Xs and Os, but the Jimmys and Joes.”

Littell gave Shadyside an early lead with a 20-yard burst off the right side on the Tigers opening possession.

Bellaire came back with an 80-yard hookup between Badia and Kenny Hess late in the quarter. Hess got behind the Tigers’ secondary and Badia delivered a strike.

Dorris and Littell combined on a 45-yard scoring play – Shadyside’s lone completion in the game – to put the Tigers back on top, 14-7 as Howell ran for two points.

Badia and Patrone sandwiched a pair of touchdown passes (14 and 64 yards) around a 17-yard jaunt by Dorris to give Bellaire at 21-20 lead with with 4:21 left in the half.

Shadyside answered quickly, however, as Dorris picked up 15 yards on first down before Howell went around left end for 51 yards and six points. The two-point conversion once again failed, leaving the Tigers on top 26-21.

Despite the loss, Badia etched his name in the OVAC record books. He became only the eighth quarterback to surpass the 6,000-yard mark in his career. Unofficially, he has 6,097 yards. He was 16-for-27 for 275 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.

Patrone caught six passes for 137 yards.

Bellaire managed 28 yards on 16 rushes.