NEW PHILADELPHIA – It was no surprise that the Region 23 battle reached its final weekend and the two teams still standing were Shadyside and Newark Catholic.
The surprise for the Tigers was Green Wave senior running back Mark Nichols who ran almost at will through the defense for 294 yards as he led head coach Bill Franks squad to a 41-28 decision. Newark Catholic advances to the state semifinals.
The Green Wave took the opening drive at Woody Hayes Quaker Stadium in New Philadelphia and marched 57 yards. Nichols took it in from 11 yards out to draw first blood.
Two snaps later Nichols picked off Shadyside quarterback Billy Merryman, who had just given up five interceptions all season, to put the Green Wave deep in Tiger territory. Shotly thereafter senior quarterback Mark Elwell found Marcus Baker for the second score to put Newark Catholic up 14-0 with 5:40 run off the first quarter clock.
Shadyside crossed midfield on the next drive but stalled on a third and 20 and punted back to the Wave. Nichols plunged in from 2 yards out to give Newark Catholic a three score cushion seconds into the second period. Nichols rambled for 73 yards midway through the frame to run up a 28-point advantage.
The Tigers’ offense came back to score on the next drive as Merriman found B.A. Holloway who hauled in his ninth touchdown of the season.
Nichols answered for the Green Wave, this time from 39 yards out for his fourth touchdown to give Newark Catholic a 34-6 lead at the break.
Shadyside was not done. The Tigers came out in the third period and executed a 6-minute scoring drive as Merriman found Holloway from 26 yards and added a two-point conversion pass to narrow the gap to 34-14.
The Tigers snared their second interception of Elwell on the next drive but could not capitalize. The Green Wave put it away on the next possesion, as Aaron Shook punched it in from 5-yards out.
Senior Nathaniel Haney scored a touchdown for the Tigers catching a Merriman aerial at the 28 yard line and running it in with 5:23 remaining and then added another TD pass following a successful onside kick to run his season total 30.
Newark Catholic plays Springfield Catholic Central at Upper Arlington in the state semifinals next Saturday.