By Wes McKinney
WHEELING, W.Va. — After amassing 11 wins, the most since 2008, and making a trip to the semifinals of the Class AAA playoffs, Wheeling Park will head into 2014 having to replace first-team all-state quarterback Zach Phillips and second-team receiver Eric Banks.
Five Patriots from last season signed to play college football, including the trio of Phillips, first-team all-state defensive captain linebacker Geremy Paige and first-team all-state lineman Matt Hackathorn heading to Gannon University. Lineman Eric McCave will play at Mercyhurst in the fall.
The new signal caller for the Patriots this season will be senior Killian Coyne.
“He has prepped himself and worked really hard to get ready for this year,” Wheeling Park head coach Chris Daugherty said. “Killian knew that Zach was going to be the quarterback, but he also knew that he was going to get one year, so he had to be ready. Early signs – I couldn’t be any happier with Killian Coyne right now.”
Also shouldering a bulk of the Patriots’ offensive production this season will be junior running back Savion Johnson who rushed for 1,500 yards last season and helped the Patriots average 39 points per game.
“Savion has been a very good tailback for us,” Daugherty said. “Coming up through, we knew Savion was going to be pretty good.”
Johnson picked up that yardage a year ago despite not seeing significant playing time in three contests and often splitting carries with incumbent starter Bryce Ingram.
“He has started to get some college notice,” Daugherty said. “He has an offer from Akron already. We have two years left with him and the sky is the limit.”
Other offensive weapons for the Patriots include senior tight end Chalmer Moffett and senior fullback Theo Blackston.
“(Blackston) gives us a side card to give the ball to if teams start keying on Savion and he’s also a good blocker,” Daugherty said.
Along with five Two Rivers Athletic Conference (TRAC) games, the Patriots will face defending Class AA state champion Bridgeport. The last five times the Patriots and Indians have matched up, each game has been decided by three points or less with Bridgeport winning three of those games.
“Myself and (Bridgeport head coach Josh Nicewarner) kid each other all the time wondering who is going to win on a last second field goal,” Daugherty said.
Last year, Patriots’ kicker Liam Casey lifted Wheeling Park to a 17-14 win in the final seconds.
In addition to the narrow escape against Bridgeport, the Patriots found themselves in a nail-bitter against Morgantown, ultimately falling 41-38.
“Morgantown has become a rival game for us,” Daugherty said. “The TRAC isn’t the largest conference in the state, but it’s one of the toughest in the state of West Virginia.
“I think Parkersburg South, Brooke and John Marshall will all be much improved. I don’t see anybody in the TRAC that is going to be an easy walk through. All these schools are raising their games. Morgantown and University are always strong.”
2014 Football Schedule
|1||08/29/14 07:00PM||H||ALLDERDICE HS||-|
|6||10/03/14 07:30PM||A||EAST LIVERPOOL,OH H.S.||-|
|8||10/17/14 07:00PM||H||CARRICK, PA H.S.||-|
|9||10/24/14 07:00PM||A||STEUBENVILLE,OH H.S.||-|
|10||10/31/14 07:30PM||A||PARKERSBURG SOUTH||-|
|11||11/07/14 07:00PM||H||JOHN MARSHALL||-|
|wins: 0 lost: 0 ties: 0|
Other 2014 HS Football Previews: