By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
One year can make all the difference in high school sports.
It really made the difference for the Shady Spring Tigers.
In 2011, the Vince Culicerto-led Tigers finished the regular season 10-0 and were placed atop the Class AA rankings, and it looked as if the Tigers would be a powerhouse in the class for years to come. However, when the Culicerto gang lost to Wayne 52-9 in the state semifinals, it would be the last game the team would play in the class.
Shady moved to the highest level in West Virginia high school athletics in 2012, and the once-powerful Tigers were caged by their new brethren, going 0-5 against class competition and 5-5 overall.
In 2013, Culicerto hopes to see his team get over the hump and finally pick up its first Class AAA victory. They hope to do that early. They’ll take on Princeton at Hunnicutt Stadium on Aug. 30.
“The goal for our team is to win the first game,” Culicerto said. “We’re going to be heading to Princeton and you’ve got to be ready. I just hope my young bunch keeps getting better and learns. Going from Monday night to Friday night is a big difference.”
This year’s team will be one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams Culicerto has had since coming to Shady Spring.
Culicerto lost his two star pupils, Adam Weeks and Houstin Syvertson, to the state’s two Division I colleges in Marshall and West Virginia University, respectively.
Replacing Weeks at quarterback will be senior Woodrow Wilson transfer, and Vince’s nephew, Timmy Culicerto.
“Timmy came in over the summer and looked okay,” Culicerto said. “We worked with him. He did a lot of 7-on-7 in June, but he hasn’t played quarterback since 9th grade. He had some hiccups there early, but since we started back, he’s looked good. We’ll see when game time starts to how he’ll react, but what we’ve been seeing is he’s throwing the ball good.”
Culicerto hopes that having more one way players on the offensive and defensive line will give his quarterback more of a chance to make his throws.
“We’re going to try to do a lot more 1 way stuff,” he said. “We felt like a lot of teams did that to us last year and it took a toll on us late in the game. We felt like we were at a disadvantage.”
Culicerto will look to Brandon Bott and sophomore Chase Lusk to sure up the lines.
“Chase stepped in and started some last year at the end of the season,” Culicerto said. “He wants to be on the field. He’s hard at it.”
Culicerto also had good things to say about the Shady kicking game.
“Levi Messer is going to be our place-kicker. I can’t leave the place without telling him to come off the field,” Culicerto said with a laugh. “He’s been hard at it and he’s nailing extra points consistently.”
As for the punting game, Culicerto will look towards youth to replace his Class AAA first-team all-stater in Syvertson.
“I’ve got a couple boys that punted on JV that we’ll try out,” Culicerto said. “Replacing Huey is going to be tough. He will be missed. I haven’t seen a player like him in any of my years coaching as either a head coach or an assistant. He’ll definitely be missed, but we’ll have to slide some players in there and see what works.”
Shady Spring will scrimmage Class AA Westside in Clear Fork on Saturday the 17th and Bluefield on the 24th. Game time for those are still to be determined.
— E-mail: email@example.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.