SHADY SPRING, W.Va. — Shady Spring has qualified for postseason play in back-to-back years. Only once before in program history have the Tigers advanced to the playoffs in three consecutive seasons. The goal this year is two-fold — not just to make the top 16, but to hang around in the bracket.
“We have had two good playoff runs in a row and we expect to do it again,” said Shady Spring head coach Vince Culicerto. “It is not going to be given to us. We have to do a lot of hard work to make sure we are ready to go.”
Last fall, the Tigers owned one of the best defenses in Class AA. They allowed just nine points a game in the regular season and posted four shutouts.
“My brother Phil handles the defense and he does a super job calling it. We have pretty simple concepts. The boys played it right and we were aggressive. That was without a doubt one of my more aggressive teams. If you hit folks and get after it, you make turnovers and we got a lot of them. The boys take pride in it and it got contagious.”
Shady must replace some of their top skill players as they turn the page to 2020. Gone are Drew Clark and Haven Chapman, who combined for 32 total touchdowns. Their graduations though create opportunities for some returners.
“We have six backs and they are all ready to go. I brag about them. I’ve got two more guys to jump right in. Isaiah Valentine got a lot of reps at running back last year too. He was more at receiver but now he’ll be a running back. Jadon Hershberger was a receiver and we’ll move him to running back. Those guys were running backs when they were freshmen.”
About half of Shady’s starting lines on both sides of the ball need to be replaced and Culicerto says that group could ultimately determine if the Tigers can play deep into November.
“We’ve got one side back (on offense). Defensively, we’ve got to fill in almost all of them. It is just one of those deals. These were kids that got time last year but we are hoping they step in. That is what we have preached, is just knowing what you are doing and making sure you are not making a mistake. That is half the battle.”