The Cougars pounced into Ohio attacking the end zone on the opening drive and maintained the lead until the start of the fourth quarter, then Shadyside commandeered a rally to save homecoming 21-7 and notched the 100th career victory for the head coach in the centennial year of the program on Saturday afternoon.
East Hardy looked poised and ready in the beginning against Shadyside which was a new opponent and about a four hour drive into the Buckeye state, but the Cougars let opportunities slip away as the Tigers became more rejuvenated in the end clawing back in this battle of the cats.
Shadyside head coach Mark Holenka credited his 100th career win to having great players and coaching staff throughout his 11 seasons at the helm.
“It is really special, especially since we have been struggling and lost some close games. Things finally began to gel and click for us in the second half against East Hardy. Things finally went our way. It is special, but it is a testament in the 11 1/2 years I have been a head coach means I have been surrounded by a lot of good athletes and awfully good coaching staff,” Shadyside coach Mark Holenka stated.
“Wyatt [Reiman] is our stallion, he is our stud. When he goes, he goes. He had a breakout game, but we had to wait until the second half. He is the one that has to line up for the field goals and at least he got the field goal and not the extra points. He made the big one there which gave us the comfort zone and the rest of the team did the blocking. It was a total team effort out there in the second half. Wyatt blew out the candles, but it was a team effort. The first drive they exploited us on the pass, but what really hurt us was early penalties and they threw the long bomb. That is what we have been struggling with leading to points. When we rushed the punter, I thought that would lead to points, but they didn’t score. Although, they ate up a bunch of clock. The defense toughened up and didn’t let them score when they got close to the red zone several times which was the difference in the game.”
East Hardy opened the game on its own 35-yard line after a kickoff return by Christian Dove and scored in under three minutes on seven plays.
Dove went to work quickly in his quarterback role connecting with Brayden Ritchie for a 14-yard first down pass, then Noah Lang added two yards on the ground.
Dove utilized a hard count to create two consecutive offsides penalties on the Tigers for another first down and went back to the air on the ensuing sequence.
East Hardy standout receiver Dawson Price towered above the defender leaping up to snatch a 36-yard pass placing the Cougars deep in the red zone at the three yard line.
After a loss on the next play, East Hardy’s Alex Miller hammered through the line for a touchdown and Noah Lang tacked on the extra point for a 7-nil edge at the 9:09 mark.
“They did a nice job scouting us and setting up their game plan. I felt they held us in check with their defense holding our offense. Hats off to them and we got what we expected coming up here, a great team in Shadyside. Our guys came out early and played really well and I was pleased with that, but our depth caught up with us finally. Not having very many subs and not being in shape due to the COVID-19 summer, so we need to clean up a lot if we are going to compete for a championship this year,” East Hardy coach Devon Orndorff commented.
“As much as I tip my hat to Shadyside, we certainly killed ourselves. You can’t have the ball on the 30 going in and not even pick up a first down. You can’t almost return three kicks for touchdowns, but equate no points out of that. We felt we won the special teams battle for the most part, but we weren’t able to capitalize on it. We have to go back to the drawing board and work even harder. They identified the young guys when we had them on the field and attacked those guys. They were more sound with their technique and capitalized on it.”
After the kickoff by Price went out of bounds, the Tigers were beginning their possession at the same location from the 35-yard line and the result was different with just one first down and a punt.
Shadyside’s first down came on a second down catch by Karl Tsoras on a throw by quarterback Rhys Francis being forced out at midfield on the 13-yard play.
The Tigers’ big playmaker Wyatt Reiman had a slow start before gaining traction in the fourth quarter but did add on two carries for nine yards on this drive with stops by East Hardy’s Dove, Ritchie, Andrew Tharp and Mason Miller.
Facing third down and one, Shadyside’s Jacob Visnic was slammed down for a loss by Cougars defensive tackle Erik Flynn which forced