WHEELING - After defeating a team that did not throw the football at all last Friday night, Wheeling Park spent this week preparing for an opponent that relies heavily on an aerial attack.
Invading Wheeling Island Stadium on Friday night will be perennial Pittsburgh City League power Brashear, the alma mater of former West Virginia University great Major Harris.
In losing 32-28 to Slippery Rock High School in their season opener, the Bulls nearly pulled out the victory behind the passing arm of quarterback Russell Page. The 6-foot 3 Brashear ace completed 14 of 23 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns. He also scored the Bulls' other TD on a short run.
File Photo by Alex Kozlowski
Eric Banks (1) and Wheeling Park will welcome Brashear to Wheeling Island Stadium on Friday.
Page's main target was speedy wideout DeShaun Roberts, who had four catches for 125 yards and two scores.
''It is like going from one extreme to the other," Patriots coach Chris Daugherty said. ''Their offense is a lot more like St. Clairsville than Bridgeport and this be a good test for our secondary.
''Page throws it pretty well. Brashear's receivers do a good job of catching and running with the football. We want to do a better job of tackling than we did last week and make sure they don't get anything easy against our defense."
The matchup against Brashear also should be interesting because the two teams have a lot of similarities. Both operate out of a basic 3-5 defense and, according to Daugherty, the Bulls have some skill people that can run with Park's impressive burners.
The Patriots also will be looking to get their record over the .500 mark after splitting the first two decisions of the year.
Daugherty's club rebounded from the 47-27 loss to powerful St. Clairsville to hang on in the final minute and post a 14-13 victory against the rush-happy Indians from Bridgeport High School.
Park led 14-0 at halftime but ended up hanging on by its fingernails until the final seconds when the Indians missed a 32-yard field goal that would have changed the outcome. Another key to the squeaker victory came after the Indians' second touchdown when junior Max Steinman blocked the attempt for the game-tying extra point.
''Our special teams really helped out," Daugherty explained.
Except for one punt that didn't even make the line of scrimmage, the Patriots' kickoff and punt teams repeatedly put Bridgeport in situations where it had to drive the ball the length of the field.
Although Bridgeport dropped from Class AAA to double-A this season, Park still expects to receive some extra bonus points in the SSAC ratings from the hard-earned victory.
''A lot of people up here underrate them but Bridgeport is really, really good," Daugherty said. ''I believe they will finish 8-2 or possibly 9-1."
Over the previous three season, Bridgeport posted a startling 29-1 regular season record, including a trio of narrow wins over the Patriots. After having a possible game-winning return of a kickoff for a touchdown by a penalty in the closing minutes of the 2009 contest at Bridgeport, Park lost the next two games on field goals with 20 and 2.2 seconds, respectively.
Daugherty's main disappointment last week was Park's inability to put any points on the scoreboard after halftime.
''We didn't have the ball a lot in the second half and just six possession the entire game," Daugherty noted. ''Bridgeport made some nice adjustment but they weren't anything we hadn't seen before."
Bryce Ingram had another solid game carrying the football for the Patriots, rushing for 84 yards and one touchdown during his 18 carries. Quarterback Zach Phillips was sharp, completing 7 of 8 passing attempts for 105 yards, including one impressive first-down completion of 19 yards to Quashad Pugh.
''He is going to be really good," Daugherty said in praising his still-maturing quarterback.
Park did get some good news injury-wise when x-rays reportedly came back negative on sophomore Theo Blackston's arm. It was first feared that he had a broken arm but now it is likely that Blackston will be able to play tomorrow night. He has been seeing a lot of time of both sides of the ball, including sharing fullback carries with the hard-running Geremy Paige.
Keeping Paige on the field has become a major concern as the solidly-built 5-10, 200-pound has missed valuable time during the first two games because of problems with leg cramps. He turned in 12 tackles and registered a quarterback sack.
When Paige was missing from the defense, it made things much easier for both St. Clairsville and Bridgeport to move the football.
Also likely to see his first action of the season is two-way lineman Markieth O'Neal, still trying to recover from a preseason injury. O'Neal's presence will provide additional strength defending the run. He is another player that is expected to be a major contributor on the Park defensive front.
Friday night will be the Patriots third straight home game to open the season. They will hit the road the next week's playing at University and Brooke before returning home to host John Marshall on Sept. 28.