SHADYSIDE - When Berlin Center Western Reserve stopped Shadyside's home winning streak in the first round of the 2012 Ohio High School Athletic Association football playoffs, the underclassmen on that Tigers' squad vowed not to let it happen again in 2013.
Mission accomplished here on a cold November Saturday night in Tiger Town as the state-ranked hosts scored early and often in rolling past outmanned Fairfield Christian Academy, 40-14, in a Division VII, Region 25 quarterfinal game at a crowded Fleming Field.
With the victory, the undefeated and No. 2 seeded Tigers (11-0) advance to regional semifinal action Saturday against sixth-seeded and fellow OVAC member Caldwell (9-2) at Woody Hayes Quaker Stadium in New Philadelphia. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Spearheading the Shadyside, which finished at No. 3 in the final Associated Press state poll, offensive attack was, as usual, the three-headed monster backfield of senior Chris Littell and juniors Austin Dorris and Eric Howell. With their performances against the seventh-seeded Knights (7-4), Littell and Howell joined Dorris as 1,000-yard rushers this season.
"One of the (offensive) linemen said when we came into the lockerroom (following the game) that 'the curse has been lifted,'" Howell said in reference to last year's season-ending setback "That's a great feeling. It also feels good for our seniors to close out their careers with a win on this field."
Littell echoed Howell's thoughts.
"It feels good to win on this field for the final time," Littell added. "It's an awesome feeling, plus, I think we're the first Shadyside team to ever go 11-0."
Fairfield Christian Academy won the opening coin toss, but deferred until the second half. That was its first mistake and proved to be a costly one.
Dorris, the Tigers' 6-5, 215-pound quarterback, took the first snap of the game in the shotgun formation. He headed to his right before seeing a seam to his left at midfield. He got to the corner and was off to the races as a Knight defender closed in at the 20. However, Dorris used his size and a strong right stiff arm to fend off the would-be tackler and finishing off the 63-yard play that took a mere 14 seconds. Mason Campbell split the uprights with the first of his four PATs as the hosts led 7-0.
After a three-and-out by the Knights, Howell, the 6-3, 220-pound fullback/tailback, took a handoff from Dorris and went 52 yards untouched to make it 14-0 after Campbell's placement. Howell's scoring jaunt took 11 seconds.
"That was huge," Shadyside head coach Mark Holenka said of the two early scores. "Usually we defer and play defense first, but they (FCA) chose to do that tonight. It turned out to be exactly the opposite of last year when Berlin Center ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown and we had to fight an uphill battle.
"Those two early scores put them in the chase mode and forced them into an uphill battle," he continued. "It's nice when you run two offensive plays and you're ahead 14-0."
Dorris capped a 6-play, 44-yard march with a 4-yard run on the Tigers' third possession. He rolled left and followed a convoy of blockers before diving into the end zone. Campbell made it 21-0 after one quarter.
A sack by Zach Meadows thwarted FCA on its next series of downs and the Tigers went 79 yards on nine plays following the punt. Littell went in from two yards out to make it 27-0.
The Knights picked up their initial two first downs on the next set of plays, both coming on offsides penalties on Shadyside. However, another punt gave the Tigers possession at their own 20. Twelve plays later, Littell took a pitch left and rambled 11 yards to the promised land as the margin ballooned to 33-0 at the half.
"When I get the ball, I know what my job is," Littell said. "That's to find the end zone."
Dorris found Scott Hammond for a 21-yard scoring strike to cap the Shadyside scoring in the third quarter. The hookup culminated a 41-yard drive that started after a nifty punt return by XXX Price.
The Knights added a pair of late touchdowns on runs by Jacob Walker (23) and Ben Tobin (17).
Shadyside amassed 422 yards of total offense, with 372 coming via the ground where Howell ran 13 times for 138 yards; Littell added 113 on 16 carries; and Dorris had 107 on five totes. For the season, Dorris now has 1,142, Littell 1,069 and Howell 1,005.
"That's awesome," Littell said of the three 1,000-yard rushers. "But all the credit has to go to the guys up front. If it wasn't for them, this wouldn't be possible. They are the ones that open the huge holes for us to run through."
Howell added, "those guys are great. They deserve all of the credit."
The hard-running duo was speaking of Cory Banco, Meadows, Hunter Hammond, Colton Campbell and Levi Spencer.
"That's nice," Holenka said of the accomplishments of Dorris, Howell and Littell. "But that's a testament to, and they will be the first ones to tell you, the offensive line and the coaches for putting them in the right situations. It's a team effort.":
The winner of Saturday's Shadyside-Caldwell game will play for the Region 25 championship on Saturday, Nov. 23 against the survivor of No. 1 Glouster Trimble (11-0) and Steubenville Central (9-2) who meet Saturday at Zanesville's Sulsberger Stadium.
Fairfield Christian Academy managed 152 yards of total offense, but most of that total came against the Tigers' reserves.
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