WHEELING - Wheeling Park isn't searching for respect because it is comfortable knowing what kind of team it is capable of being. Still, it hasn't escaped the Patriots (1-0) that they're only ranked as the eighth-best team in West Virginia Class AAA by the state's sportswriters.
"Hopefully our kids understand that it's simply a case of locally us being handed something that we maybe haven't earned yet,'' Coach Chris Daugherty said. "Maybe across the state they are waiting until we go out an earn it.
"I think that is fuel to a certain extent.''
Another chance to make a statement awaits this week as Daugherty and company travel to take on regular playoff participant Bridgeport (1-0). The Patriots easily dispatched another Class AA heavyweight, Keyser, by a 45-22 count Friday night at Wheeling Island Stadium in a game that wasn't anywhere near that close. Park led 45-6 in the fourth quarter before the 2012 state runnerup scored twice against second- and third-teamers.
Sophomore Savion Johnson debuted with a 100-yard rushing effort, quarterback Zach Phillips threw three touchdowns and Eric Banks hauled in 99 yards worth of those passes and scored two of the touchdowns. Defensively, Geremy Paige had 11 tackles and forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown in one half of action.
Wheeling Park knows what it's going to get from the Indians, who enter off a 47-28, opening-week victory at Buckhannon Upshur. Bridgeport is going to run the ball the majority of the time, though it will do so out of some different formations.
"It's crazy. I would have never thought they would change,'' Daugherty said. "They have been so productive and strong, but you're going to see some shotgun, some pistol.
"They're going to run their quarterback more than they have, and I think they have done this to get him away from the line of scrimmage."
Bridgeport has continued to run out of the stick-I formation, but Daugherty estimates his defense will see some type of variation roughly 50 percent of the time.
"But when they get uncomfortable they will go back to what they know,'' Daugherty said. "They're very, very good and they're disciplined.
"They are going to have penalties or turn the ball over and beat themselves."
The Patriots, who are the No. 2-ranked team in The Intelligencer/News-Register Big School poll, also have a new wrinkle to show off, that being the mobility of Phillips when he is able to get outside the pocket. Phillips opened the scoring last week with a 71-yard touchdown run.
"It's going to change the mindset of a lot of defensive coordinators,'' Daugherty said. "Hopefully we can do that and get out of this 2-0. Week off to get ready for University."