By DAVE MORRISON – Wheeling Intelligencer
WHEELING, W.Va. — University coach John Kelley has been around long enough to see backfields, and he has had quite a few himself.
Then he saw Wheeling Park last Friday on the Island in Wheeling.
Kelley called the Class AAA No. 3 Patriots’ backfield the “best stable of backs I have ever seen.”
Indeed, the Park four-headed backfield monster of Bryce Ingram, Savion Johnson, Geremy Paige and Theo Blackston got a whole lot better when Ingram returned from injury last week against University.
He wound up leading Park (3-0) with 83 yards on the ground
And that is the problem Brooke (1-3) encounters when it travels down U.S. Route 2 to take on Park this week.
“I would be in agreement with that,” Brooke coach Sean Blumette said of Kelley’s statement. “You look at a team like Morgantown and Chazzy Thomas (who has close to 1,000 yards four games into the season) and he is lightning quick and is an outstanding back. Park has four backs it can bring at you, each one offering a little bit of a different look from the other. They certainly have versatility at the position.
“They have weapons everywhere. They have guys they can hand it to, they have guys they can throw it to and a great quarterback leading the whole thing (Zach Phillips).”
Johnson leads Park with 264 yards and two touchdowns. Paige has 146 yards and a score. Then there was Ingram, who returned with 83 yards against University.
Park coach Chris Daugherty doesn’t necessarily disagree with Kelley either.
“The kids work well as a group,” Daugherty said. “They don’t care who gets the carries, what their yards are. That;s huge. It’s all about the team.”
Phillips had completed 22 of 42 passes for 368 yards and three touchdowns.
Many think this might be one of the better Park teams in several years. As such, the Patriots will not take the Bruins lightly.
“We fell they’re very similar to University,” said Daugherty, who saw University’s 44-21 win over the Bruins at Brooke two weeks ago.
Daugherty saw a different game than the final score indicated.
“You take four, five plays away from University in that game and it’s a different ball game,” he said. “Their quarterback (Aaron Walker) does a great job with their offense and the running back, (Justin) Lougherie is a good player. When they run their zone read, he reads it well and gets his six, seven yards.”
“Playing at the Island is always tough,” Blumette said. “But we’ll show up and we’ll be ready to play.”
Magnolia at Wheeling Central
Wheeling Central’s contract with Magnolia is just in its second year, but it has already developed into a bit of a rivalry.
It’s also a key game for both teams as both have rebounded from setbacks earlier in the year.
Magnolia (2-2) has rebounded from an 0-2 start, which included losses to Linsly (14-7) and Williamstown (15-14), with easy wins over rivals Tyler Consolidated and River by a combined 88 points.
Central erased the sting of a 42-7 loss to top-ranked Madonna was a 26-21 win over Linsly.
“They’ve put up a lot of points lately so their offense is starting to gel,,” Central coach Mike Young said. “We have to control the football and take every opportunity we get to score points on every possession because we know they can score.”
Obviously Drew Keller (332 yards, 6.9 yards per carry, two TDs) and Kage Rohde (218 yards, 9.9, 3) get a lot of the work out of the backfield but the Magnolia passing game has come to the fore as of late. Quarterback Jacob Brill has passed for 485 yards and receiver Eric Smith, who didn’t even play football the last two seasons, leads all of Class A in receiving with 18 catches for 376 yards and four touchdowns.
Central has its own 1-2 punch in Parker Henry 381 yards) and C.J. Burch. They also use a unique Wing-T from the shotgun formation in which Henry, the quarterback, can wreak havoc on defenses.
“We have to get to them before they get going,” Magnolia coach Mark Batton said. “We have to read our keys and tackle them before they get going.”
Cameron (1-3) at Madonna (4-0)
The top-ranked Blue Dons hope to keep the Ross Comis Show rolling on homecoming. Comis, the do it all Madonna QB, certainly believes in balance, with 335 yards passing (and four touchdowns) and 336 yards rushing at nine scores.
Cameron presents a “big” problem in Logan Routt, a 6-foot-9 QB who has had good and bad games in the Dragons 1-3 start.
John Marshall (2-1) at East Liverpool, Ohio (1-3)
The Monarchs have a chance to keep it rolling before reaching the beef of a schedule that includes Morgantown, University and Wheeling Park.
John Marshall has two blowout wins after a season-opening loss at Bellaire, and quarterback Noah Martin, the starter in those two wins, is a combined 17 for 20 for 237 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted once.