Story by Tracy Watson
Sophomore quarterback Rhys Francis threw for a career-high 261 yards and 3 touchdowns and the Tigers’ defense limited the Blue Eagles to 154 total yards of offense, most coming late, in rolling to an impressive 44-8 victory on Alumni Field at Bill Stewart Stadium.
“We came out and took care of our business early and got back to our type of football,” Shadyside Head Coach Mark Holenka said. “We did what we had to do and was able to get a lot of kids on the field.”
It didn’t take Shadyside long to get the offense going after stopping the Magnolia offense to begin the contest. Sophomore quarterback Rhys Francis completed all three of his passes for 64 yards during the 72-yard drive before junior Jacob Visnic barreled his way into the endzone from a yard away at 5:57. Angel Velasquez’ boot made it a quick 7-0 margin.
The Tigers pushed it to 10-0 after a 10-yard Blue Eagles’ punt following a bad snap. The visitors moved the ball inside the 15 but stalled on downs before Velasquez’ bombed a 30-yard field goal straight through the uprights with plenty of distance to spare.
Shadyside capped an impressive first quarter with a 21-yard burst down the sidelines from sophomore Wyatt Reiman with 20 ticks remaining in the frame. It finished a two-play, 39-yard drive that was again set-up by a poor punt that extended the lead to 17-0.
Led by 117 passing yards from Francis the Tigers put up 149 total yards and seven first downs in the first quarter.
It took the visitors just one play to put up its first score of the second chapter and came after a penalty brought back a nice punt return by Kelly Hendershot that could have had Shadyside inside the 10. Instead, Francis hit a streaking Hendershot deep down the middle of the field for a 42-yard scoring strike. The kick failed for a 23-0 score.
That same duo hooked up later in the frame when a motioning Hendershot took a front pitch from Francis and raced 44 yards down the sideline for a 30-0 reading at the break.
Holenka’s squad had a whopping 306-25 yardage margin at the half. The Tigers’ offensive front did an outstanding job all night long led by seniors Caleb Davis and Ryan Cain along with juniors Jalob “Larry” Honeywell, Mason Geraud and sophomore Logan Crozier.
“Offensive line Coaches Chase Grinch and Ziggy Campbell always have a tough week when we play Magnolia because they like to blitz a lot,” Holenka added. “But they had the kids ready (Friday) and the whole line did a real nice job giving Rhys (Francis) plenty of time to throw.
“The entire offense really had a good game and we moved the ball well.”
Shadyside picked up right where it left off to start the third quarter going 48 yards in five plays with Francis hitting Jordan Joseph from 23 yards away on a fourth down call to make it 37-0.
Reiman scored his second touchdown of the night a short time later on a 55-yard burst to keep the scoring train moving for the visitors.
Hendershot left with an injury late in the first half but had a fine night with four grabs for 121 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on defense.
Big Blue finished off the scoring with a 36-yard touchdown pass from junior Caden Cisar to Silas McKeever on the final offensive play of the contest. Cisar then hit Brendan Mirandy with the two-point conversion on a tipped pass.
Blue Eagles’ Head Coach Dave “Doc”Chapman was happy his team never quit, especially after a scary early injury to junior Logan Beegle, who was taken to the hospital in the first quarter with an unknown injury.
“Shadyside is a very good and solid football team,” Chapman said. “They have a lot of weapons and they utilize all of them. But our kids continued to fight, even after a major first quarter injury that really makes you question things.
“Our thoughts and prayers as a team and community are with Logan Beegle right now.
“The kids could have mailed it in and gave up, but we can take something positive out of scoring on that last play and it proves we never quit playing. Now we have to quickly put this behind us and get ready for a pretty good River team that is coming in here next week.”
Things won’t get any easier for Shadyside either as they finish off a three-game road swing with a trip to two-time defending West Virginia Class A state champion Wheeling Central next Friday night at Wheeling University.