Running games will be featured when Shadyside visits Central

Shadyside and Wheeling Central are two of the perennial small-school heavyweights in the Ohio Valley.

Hence why when they play, it’s always a big game. It’s actually developed into quite the friendly rivalry as well.

“This is good, small-community football,” said Central head coach Mike Young. “I don’t think the outcome of tis week’s game will determine whether or not either team makes the playoffs, but it’s more about bragging rights.”

The rivalry will be renewed at Wheeling Island Stadium Friday night at 7.

It’s a game that Shadyside points to each season because it realizes the type of challenge the Knighs always provide.

“Central is always one of the premier teams on our schedule and in the Ohio Valley,” said Tigers’ head coach Mark Holenka.

The Tigers come in at 6-0, ranked third in Division VII in the Ohio poll, tops in the Division VII, Region 25 rankings and are leading the OVAC Class 2A standings with the Maroon Knights close on their heels.

“We’re going to have our work cut out for us,” Young said. “They’re big, strong, aggressive, talented and they’ve got a really good, physical running game.”

The Knights are currently 5-1, but have had to grind their way to that mark.

“We’ve been in some battles the last three weeks, that’s for sure,” Young said. “Being able to come out victorious under those conditions is what we’re most pleased about.”

Their lone loss came at the hands of Madonna. They’ve posted narrow victories against Harrison Central (7-6), Linsly (26-21), Magnolia (27-20) and Kiski Prep (20-18).

“I think Central plays with such tradition that it never gets to a point where it just doesn’t expect to win,” Holenka said. “They’ve been on the ropes at times, but they always seem to respond well to adversity.”

The game could be one of the quicker affairs of the season as both teams are very ground oriented, but utilize different styles. Shadyside’s three-headed backfield monster of Austin Dorris, Eric Howell and Chris Littell are more bruising, physical backs that get behind the mammoth offensive line.

The Tigers are averaging 289 yards a game on the ground between the three aforementioned backs. Dorris leads the way by 6 yards over Howell with 613 yards. Littell, who missed a game due to injury, has 512 yards.

The trio has also scored 31 rushing touchdowns.

“Those three kids run hard and they have great balance,” Young said. “Plus, with that type of line in front of you, you can make some explosive plays.”

Paving the way for the Tigers’ backfield is the offensive front of Cory Banco, Zach Meadows, Jacob Spencer, Matt Hammond and Colton Campbell.

“We’re running the ball well, but we’re going to be facing a team that lives and dies with the blitz, so we’ll have to be able to make sure we’re ready for that,” Holenka said. “They’re very aggressive. We’ve seen blitzing before, but I’m not sure we’ve seen it as much as Central does it.”

Dorris, who visited Indiana last Saturday and holds an offer from Ohio University, has only thrown for 374 yards and three touchdowns.

Wheeling Central’s ground game doesn’t involve quite the power approach of the Tigers. The Knights run the spinner series, which utilizes a lot of deception.

“Their deception isn’t just within the spin, it’s within their linemen and blocking schemes as well,” Holenka said. “They run from multiple looks and they have two stellar runners, so we can’t overplay things.”

The Knights’ offense is led by seniors Parker Henry and C.J. Burch, both of whom are fast and elusive runners.

Henry began the season at quarterback, but has been shifted to more of his natural role as running back with the development of frosh quarterback Isaac Rine. Joe John is another solid option for the Knights on offense.

“We were in a dog fight with Central last year, so I knew with the addition of Henry and Buch back, we’d better be ready for another dog fight,” Holenka said.