WHEELING, W.Va. – After a six-year gap, Wheeling Central is back on top in Class A as the Maroon Knights dethroned St. Marys 40-21 on Saturday night for the school’s 10th football championship.
“We’re back,” said Central coach Mike Young. “We’re back and these kids deserve all of the credit along with my assistant coaches. It was a tremendous team effort.
“We played lights out in the second half,” he continued. “The first half was a little shaky at times with all of the hype of the game. But I’m so proud of these kids and what they’ve accomplished.”
The Maroon Knights (10-4) outscored St. Marys 19-0 in the second half, breaking open a game that was tied 21-21 at the break.
After a six-play, 70-yard drive to start the third quarter put Central up 27-21, Bray Price collected a pick-six defensively, returning an interception 58 yards for a score as the Maroon Knights grabbed all of the momentum.
“It was huge and a momentum builder,” Young said. “Bray (Price) is an athlete and he came to play tonight.”
Price was named the MVP for Central Catholic, rushing for 190 yards on just 11 carries (17.3 yards per carry) and totaling three touchdowns overall.
“On the pick-six, the way he was rolling out, I felt he was going to throw it overtop (of his receiver’s) head,” Price said. “I just shadowed him and I picked it off.
“I owe the credit to my offensive line and (quarterback) Curtis McGhee,” he continued. “Our coaches were calling good plays. We came a long way this season. We knew we could do it from the start.”
St. Marys (11-2) had the momentum early, scoring on the game’s first play on a 41-yard run from Jaiden Smith. The Blue Devils fell behind 21-7, but finished the second quarter with two straight touchdowns to even things up at the break.
Smith finished with 128 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries, to go along with a 52 yard catch and run.
It’s a Blue Devils senior group, including Smith, that played for the Class A title three out of four years, winning in 2016.
“It’s been very, very special what that group has done,” said St. Marys coach Jodi Mote. “It’s been remarkable for St. Marys High School. I can’t thank them and our staff enough.
“It’s tough feeling like this,” he continued. “If you don’t win it all, you just have this feeling – it’s the same feeling that all the other teams have. There’s only one team that’s going to come out on top. We did that last year, but unfortunately we didn’t do that this year.”
Dawson Wear also eclipsed the 100-yard mark rushing for Wheeling Central, finishing with 153 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. McGhee added over 100 yards of total offense, scoring on two touchdown runs.
Adam Murray led the Maroon Knights defensively with 14 tackles – he ends the year with 181 total tackles and is just a sophomore.
It was that Central defense, as a whole, that dominated the second half.
“We made a couple of adjustments and being able to stop (Jaiden) Smith was huge – he’s a heck of a back and credit to him,” Young said. “Our kids just played a little bit more aggressive in the second half and played their positions.”
It’s the sixth overall title for the Maroon Knights during Mike Young’s tenure.
“It feels great,” Price said. “It means the world to us. We did it for Coach Young. He teaches us everything – to be a man, all of that. Tonight is for him.”