WHEELING, W.Va. — Playing with a purpose on both sides of the ball, Class AAA No. 7 Wheeling Park had its way with No. 5 University in the Patriots’ 42-6 win Friday at Wheeling Island Stadium.
“They have more experience than us, more size than us, more speed than us and flat out more talent than us,” Hawks’ coach John Kelley said. “They have a great football team and I really believe they’ll be here in December. If not, they’ll be right there in the semifinals. This is one of the best teams they’ve had since their (2015) state championship team.”
Wheeling Park (3-1) took complete control of the contest in the opening quarter.
After a dropped pass on fourth down prevented the Patriots from scoring on their opening series, Wheeling Park poured it on UHS.
Alex Dunlevy’s 46-yard touchdown pass to Carson Namack got Park on the scoreboard 5:08 into the action, and the advantage grew to 7-0 following the first of six point-after kicks by Andrew Glass.
Dunlevy connected with Shaheed Jackson for a 33-yard touchdown pass on the Patriots’ next series, giving them two offensive touchdowns in a span of 2 minutes for a 14-0 lead.
Both early touchdown passes were short throws with a bulk of the yardage after the catch.
“We want to make defenses have to defend the whole field both horizontally and vertically,” Park coach Chris Daugherty said. “We try to make sure that all gets done early and then from that point, we try to pick what they give us. Tonight, to their credit, they took some things away, but they gave up some things to do it.”
The Patriots needed only 1:42 to go on top 21-0, as University (2-2) quarterback Joseph McBee had his pass intercepted by Hunter Nixon, who returned it 37 yards to the end zone with 3:10 to play in the first quarter.
“They just killed us on the offensive and defensive lines,” Kelley said. “I think he lost his confidence when he threw the pick six and went downhill after that.”
UHS got into Wheeling Park territory on its next series, but McBee’s pass fell incomplete on fourth-and-6.
The Hawks did manage to block a 27-yard field goal attempt early in the second quarter to keep the deficit at 21, but Tim McCabe sacked McBee on a fourth down play in Patriots’ territory to get Park the ball back.
On the first play from scrimmage of the Patriots’ ensuing series, Dunlevy tossed his third and final touchdown of the night — this one covering 65 yards to Steven Mitchell for a 28-0 lead.
“Dunlevy makes the whole thing go and he’s smart,” Daugherty said. “We put a lot on his table. He makes checks at the line, he’s reading almost everything we do. He has to read the backside of the defense and signal that. He does so much for us. Without him, I don’t know that we could get it all done.”
Although Dunlevy was intercepted by Jaeden Hammack in the end zone later in the half, the Patriots continued to add to their lead.
Rapheal Bradley finished off an eight play, 70-yard drive with a 2-yard TD run 28 seconds before halftime to send the Patriots into the break with a 35-0 lead.
Mitchell’s 1-yard TD run on Park’s opening possession of the second half stretched the lead to 42-0, before UHS scored on a 26-yard run by Eliki Barner at the 2:25 mark of the third quarter.
Wheeling Park won its second straight since a 36-33 loss to St. Clairsville, Ohio, in Week 2. The Patriots have now scored 140 points in their three wins.
“They don’t care who gets the ball and right now, they’re all capable of making a play,” Daugherty said of his skill position players. “That’s hard on a high school defense.”
Things don’t get any easier for UHS next week as it’ll welcome defending Class AA champion Fairmont Senior.