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Football Lookahead: Park Faces Litmus Test Against Morgantown

October 4, 2012
By NICK BEDWAY , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

If Coach Chris Daugherty and the Wheeling Park (4-2) football team are looking for a signature victory that might determine how far the Patriots have come this season, Friday night may provide the answer.

That's when Daughtery's talented club takes on perennial West Virginia Class AAA title contender Morgantown (4-1) at Wheeling Island Stadium.

Coached by former Brooke High School lineman John Bowers, the Mohigans have lost only to two-time defending big-school champion Martinsburg.

Meanwhile, the Patriots have accomplished just about what was expected of them, knocking off three teams they were favored to defeat while losing to still undefeated powers St. Clairsville and University.

Park was in both of those defeats early and led St. Clairsville 13-12 at halftime before the Red Devils exploded to win going away, 47-27.

''It is a big challenge this week and I think we are ready for it," Daugherty said. ''Morgantown has been a solid program for a long time and we are working at reaching that same level."

Bowers shares Daugherty's thoughts about this being a pivotal game for both Morgantown and Park.

''It will be a very good test for both teams to find out where they are,"Bowers pointed out.

''Park is tremendously athletic and, obviously, they have a lot of skill headed by Bryce Ingram who is an exceptional player. They have speed on the flanks and at both halfback positions. The offensive line is strong and the defensive line is very aggressive and well-schooled."

The Mohigans coach also mentioned how much he looks forward to games against the Patriots.

''I always liked to compete against Wheeling Park growing up and I enjoyed beating them when I was a Brooke Bruin," he said.

Both teams feature two of the top junior running backs around in the Mohigans' Chazzy Thomas and the Patriots' Ingram.

Prior to Morgantown's bye week, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Thomas was the OVAC's leading rusher with 676 yards and eight touchdowns on 79 carries.

Overall the speedy, quick-footed Ingram has accounted for 481 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

In last Friday's 62-14 romp against John Marshall, Ingram had an 8-yard TD carry along with an 86-yard interception return for another score.

''Chazzy Thomas is a phenomenal football player and an even better person," Bowers stated about his stellar back. ''He prepared his body to play on the triple-A level when he bought into the weights and ran track where he was a state qualifier last year. I think he is one of the top five backs we have had here and that's saying a lot."

Daugherty is also high on the Mohigans' star running back.

''Thomas is very shifty, runs hard and is able to get his pads square, but at the same time he is quick enough to kind of run around some people,'' he said.

''We have to make sure we tackle the tailback. The Morgantown quarterback (Mark Johnson) throws it pretty well but they do it just enough to keep you out of the box.''

The improvement Ingram has shown during this season is notably impressive.

''Bryce is a tremendous talent but he still has a lot to learn,'' Daugherty noted.

''He's getting better at staying in the hole and relying on his linemen while not being so quick at bouncing it outside. We are very happy with his progress."

Beside Thomas, Morgan-town's offense has benefited from Johnson's 10 touchdown passes without throwing an interception so far along with a couple of quality receivers in wideout Blaine Stewart and tight end Stone Wolfley (6-4, 260). The 6-2, 185-pound Stewart is the son of the late Bill Stewart, former WVU head football coach.

Morgantown's formidable offensive line is anchored by three-year starter Adam White, a 6-3, 280-pounder getting FCS looks. On defense, the leading tackler is senior Jalen Thomas, a stumpy 5-6, 234-pound inside linebacker.

Outside linebacker Shane Commodore (6-2, 195) is another notable performer.

One of the keys to Park's success on offense is that the Patriots have several kids with the potential to make big plays.

''It's taken some of them a while to figure out to have patience and wait for their opportunities," Daugherty explained.

Eric Banks was moved recently from running back where we was getting limited carries to wide-out.

''We want to get him the ball out in space where he can be one-on-one with a corner and safety. He is starting to get real comfortable out there," Daugherty added.

Last week the Park speedster contributed with a 38-yard TD reception from quarterback Zack Phillips, another junior piling up some impressive statistics in his first season as a starter. Phillips had two touchdown tosses a week ago, give him a total of six.

The Patriots' defense also continue to play better, keyed by inside linebackers Andrew Wheeler and Geremy Paige. Two talented sophomores making big contributions are Theo Blackston and Chalmer Moffitt.

Blackston has been a force both on defense and also on the offense, where he shares the fullback spot with Paige.

''At 6-2, Chalmer is tough as nails," Daugherty praised the first-year varsity performer. ''He always played up on his feet (at linebacker) until we moved him inside to tackle and now at defensive end."

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