WHEELING, W.Va. — With the Class A field appearing to be wide open in 2014 with no clear favorite jumping off the page initially, the opportunity is there for perennial power Wheeling Central to get back on top.
The Maroon Knights, who last won the state championship in 2011, have finished the last two seasons with first round playoff losses (27-25 to Williamstown in 2013 and 60-34 to East Hardy in 2012).
“We took one on the chin last year,” said veteran Wheeling Central coach Mike Young. “We lost to a good team who went up and gave Madonna a heck of a ballgame. To play at Williamstown and come out the way we did definitely wasn’t what we wanted, but I was very proud of how well our kids played.”
That was an overall young Wheeling Central team from a year ago, something that is true about this year’s group as well.
“This year is no different,” Young said. “We were more of a freshmen and sophomore oriented team last year — now we will be made up of more sophomores and juniors. We only have three seniors coming back, so that will be a challenge.”
Key skill players gone from that 2013 team include C.J. Burch, Parker Henry (injured mid-season) and Joe John, along with several players along the offensive line.
“We lost some great kids,” Young said. “And we’re always looking for guys to step up and become new leaders for us. We’re looking forward to see who comes up out of the ranks of being practice players for the last two or three years to be our leaders this year.”
Those three seniors this year are Ben Duplaga who will get the carries at running back, receiver Matt Pleva and Peter Hartzell who will start at tackle.
“We have three quality kids there, but then we drop down to juniors and sophomores — we may string out a freshman, too,” he said. “I don’t want to say ‘wait until next year,’ because I want to see what we have this year. We will play every game to win and we’re hoping to play the first week in December for a state championship.”
Sophomore Isaac Rine is expected to get the majority of snaps at quarterback for the Maroon Knights.
“We also have a couple of freshmen kids,” Young said. “And you never know with us, the last couple of years we have had to start freshmen quarterbacks because of injuries. Isaac started for us in the Williamstown game as a freshman. He really came around last year behind veteran leadership.”
Other guys expected to serve prominent roles this season for Wheeling Central include junior twins Isaac and Alex Calvert along the offensive line. Junior running back Brandon Anglich, sophomore receivers Clayton McCabe and Luke Fahey, sophomore back Michael Niggemyer, sophomore linebacker Chantz Chambers and junior receiver Brian Campbell all could factor in as well, among others.
“We have a number of kids who we feel will be contributors to our program,” Young said. “We’re changing up our offense a little bit. We’ll spread it out even more and see if we can get kids open in space, throwing the ball and getting the ball to the perimeter. We feel we have kids who can make big plays, so in order to do that, we want to spread it out a lot.”
As usual, Wheeling Central boasts one of the more difficult schedules in Class A as the Maroon Knights try to position for a high seed heading into the postseason.
“We know we will be challenged, but at the same time, our job every day is to practice hard and get better — and to play each game to win,” he said. “With our challenging schedule in front of us, it keeps us hungry to improve. Having over 50 kids out and three of them being seniors, we should be getting better with each week.”
|WHEELING CENTRAL CATHOLIC
2014 Football Schedule
|1||08/30/14 07:00PM||H||NOTRE DAME||–|
|2||09/06/14 07:00PM||H||CATHOLIC CENTRAL, OH H.S.||–|
|4||09/19/14 07:00PM||H||LINSLY, WV. H.S.||–|
|6||10/03/14 07:00PM||A||KISKI AREA, PA H.S.||–|
|7||10/10/14 07:00PM||A||SHADYSIDE,OH H.S.||–|
|8||10/18/14 12:30PM||H||WESTINGHOUSE, PA H.S.||–|
|9||10/31/14 07:00PM||A||BISHOP DONAHUE||–|
|10||11/08/14 01:00PM||H||SPRING MILLS||–|
|wins: 0 lost: 0 ties: 0|
Other 2014 HS Football Previews: