WHEELING - With a much anticipated clash against long-time private school rival Linsly coming up next week, Wheeling Central Catholic's game plan Saturday night was to lighten the work load for C.J. Burch.
Although the junior quarterback/tailback still managed to find the end zone three times, Burch was limited to just six carries overall and this enabled some other Maroon Knights' runners to enjoy the limelight.
Joe John rushed 11 times for 100 yards and a touchdown, while Braxton Nolte had a big night on both sides of the ball as Wheeling Central (2-1) rolled past winless Pittsburgh Westinghouse 37-22 at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Wheeling Central’s Michael Pleva (11) eyes a pass Saturday night as Westinghouse’s Hakeem Jackson closes in.
Photo by Alex Kozlowski
The final score obviously didn't tell the story of this rout. The Maroon Knights led 37-0 after three quarters and when Coach Mike Young pulled the plug, the visiting Bulldogs put up three meaningless scores during the game's final minutes.
Central led 30-0 at halftime with the defense, led by Nolte and Jimmy Tankovits, helped sack the Westinghouse quarterbacks four times for a minus 50 yards.
''We know we just can't run C.J. all the time," Young pointed out ''Nolte run the ball hard. Joey John had some nice long runs so we worked like heck to get him in end zone. (Nick) Naumann is also learning how to run the ball better."
Nolte racked up 40 yards on his nine carries. Naumann added 28 on eight attempts with one six-pointer and Burch accounted for 32 yards that included touchdown runs of 2, 3 and 8 yards.
Burch also hit on three of four passes for 60 yards, including a 35-yard strike down to middle to Michael Pleva and another 20-yarder when he found Nolte open on a crossing pattern.
''We could have made it an ugly score," Young said. ''The opportunity was there for us to play a lot of the younger kids. I'm proud of the effort. People talk about how we win state championships and my response is that we don't win them the first part of the season. Every year is the same. We have to hang our hats on getting better each week."
John's 43-yard run down the left sideline on a counter play to Bulldogs 2 highlighted Central's opening TD drive of 60 yards on six plays. Burch went up the middle for the score on the next play and Bradley Cottell's kick made it 7-0 just 2:38 into the contest.
The Bulldogs were guilty of a late hit when Pleva signalled for a fair catch of a punt on the last play of the first quarter. Starting from the Westinghouse 36, Central got close enough for a 27-yard Cottrell field goal. Nolte accounted for 22 yards on two carries before behind spilled for a loss of three yards on third down. Cottrell's kick made it inside the right upright putting Central up 10-0.
Tankovits' fumble recovery set up a 21-yard scoring drive for a 16-0 lead. Burch got the TD from the 3 after another John carry of 15 yards.
Burch's final TD from the 8 lifted the advantage to 23-0 and a Nate Bakaitis punt return of 22 yards into Bulldogs territory set up the Naumann touchdown from the 5 as he made a couple of nice cuts on his way to paydirt.
The first-teamers were finished after John's fourth and goal score from the 1. This drive was set up by a Nolte fumble recovery at the Westinghouse 43.
Problems on the snaps with the Maroon Knight backups on the field helped Westinghouse score three TDs late in the game. Finding the endzone twice was Bayshaud El on runs of 8 and 4 yards, while Shakur Roberts added a 1-yard touchdown carry. Roberts and Sean Lyons added two-point conversion runs.
Defensively, the Maroon Knights held Westinghouse to minus yardage on the ground in the first half. The sacks against quarterbacks Hasaan Allen and Ronald Brown resulted in losses of 33 yards. The Bulldogs running backs accounted for just 32 yards during the first 24 minuts..
Before Central stepped up the heat on Allen, he had some early success throwing the football on short passes. He completed six of his first seven passes for 33 yards. However, Allen and Brown misfired on their next six attempts.
''Our linemen did a great job of pressuring the quarterback," Young said. ''I was also pleased the blocking on the offensive line.
''Our two goals were to win and to come out healthy. We are paper tn some areas already and we just can't afford to lose anybody else."