WHEELING - Hedgesville attempted to catch Wheeling Park off-guard with a squib kick to open Friday night's game at Wheeling Island Stadium. Josh Dent was not fooled.
Dent returned that kick 63 yards for a touchdown and Bryce Ingram took a handoff and sprinted 35 yards for a score one play after the Patriots (7-3) partially blocked the ensuing Eagles (3-7) punt, helping Wheeling Park clinch its second consecutive West Virginia Class AAA playoff berth with a 40-13 victory.
''You don't expect that on a squib kick, but the kids got a little too excited and pitched down in on the corner and they got around the end,'' Hedgesville coach and Brooke Hall of Famer Rich Thomaselli said. ''Two touchdowns in 20, 30 seconds.
Wheeling Park’s Bryce Ingram (5) is gang tackled by Hedgesville’s Eli Gates (14) and Jonathan Hill (75) on
Friday at Wheeling Island
''There were a couple games - this one, Martinsburg and Musselman - and we battled, but we were outmatched.''
Ingram carried the load with 124 of the Patriots' 212 yards on the ground, while quarterback Zach Phillips accounted for three scores on a 15-yard run and two passes to Eric Banks from 41 and 4 yards, respectively.
''We wanted to create a situation here where we're in the playoffs every year and this is the second step,'' Wheeling Park coach Chris Daugherty said.
''Now we want to win - we don't just want to get in.
''We want to be in that final eight, that final four.''
The Patriots are in, but when, where and whom they will play won't be known until sometime late tonight. For Daugherty and his coaching staff, it doesn't matter. He says they will play anyone, anywhere and any time.
''I think these kids in this locker room are really hungry for a playoff win,'' Daugherty said. ''No matter who we play, I think they are going to get our best shot.''
The Eagles certainly did.
Thomaselli's young group had trouble containing the likes of Chalmer Moffett, Geremy Paige and Markieth O'Neal. That defense made like difficult on Hedgesville quarterback Lane Riner, who completed 6 of 11 for 21 yards and was intercepted three times.
''I think they got a little bit battle-hardened this year,'' Thomaselli said. ''We split up and go to another school next year so I am going to lose a lot of these kids.
''But we will keep fighting and do the best we can.''
The Eagles scored the next five points via a safety and a 42-yard field goal by Jacob Ervin. But Banks was all alone for a long pass and Dent scored again, this time on a 4-yard run as the Patriots grabbed a 27-5 halftime lead and put it away with two scores to start the third.
The Eagles scored their lone touchdown when Hunter Weaver ran the ball in from the 2 with 7:12 remaining.
''I think we have gotten better,'' said Daugherty, whose team's losses came to St. Clairsville (11-0), Morgantown (8-2) and University (8-2). ''We've played really clean football the last three or four weeks.
''I've probably been more proud of that than anything.''