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Football Lookahead: A Lot of Eyes Figure To Be On Park-University Matchup

September 19, 2013
By JIM ELLIOTT , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Another week, another marquee game for Wheeling Park.

''I was just telling our kids this is the third week in a row where I think we're in one of the premier matchups in the state,'' Wheeling Park coach Chris Daugherty said. ''I would think most people in the state are going to try to gauge who is who off of this game.''

That's highly likely, given Friday night's Wheeling Park-University matchup features two of the top 12 teams in the first set of SSAC ratings, which came out Tuesday night. Neither squad has a loss.

Article Photos

Troy Salantino and the Wheeling Park Patriots have a big opportunity Friday night vs. University.

University (3-0), which is in a four-way tie with George Washington, Cabell Midland and Martinsburg for second in the ratings, is a team that has blitzed its first three opponents by a combined score of 135-28, or an average of 45-9.

Wheeling Park (2-0) finds itself rated 12th, unable to pick up many points last week because of a bye.

That was both a good thing and a bad thing, Daugherty said. Unless you're fielding a M*A*S*H unit - and for once, Wheeling Park isn't - coaches can never agree on when is a good time for a bye week.

Park had been riding high after an easy victory against Keyser and a slim triumph vs. Bridgeport on the road before the schedule forced a momentary break.

''It's not a great situation,'' Daugherty said. ''We had some bumps and bruises so that was good. We were just looking at getting better at what we do. We're not going to get crazy. It was a little bit of time to clean up some things.''

Oh, and a time to work on what they know about a University team they've split the last two games with. Conveniently the Hawks were just right up the road playing Brooke last Friday, a rather easy opportunity for the Patriots coaching staff to put some of their own eyeballs on John Kelley's University club.

''We'd be nuts not to use that time to get ready for University and we did,'' Daugherty said. ''But we didn't trade film until the week was over.

''There are some things are the same, some are different - not that they're any better or worse.''

One thing that stood out was how opportunistic University was. The Hawks took advantage of nearly every mistake Brooke made, most notably the time the Bruins let Jack Armstrong take the opening kickoff back 92 yards for a touchdown.

''That's the truth,'' Daugherty said. ''Brooke played a good football game for about two, two-and-a-half quarters. When (the Hawks) were given the chance to make a play, they did.

''They have three or four kids that can make plays, and they did. I think that was the difference.''

So who are some of those guys?

Quarterback Travis Renner is the team's leading passer and rusher. He's completing nearly 60 percent of his tosses (22 of 37) for 319 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while rushing 41 times for 210 yards and two more scores.

Tyler Piktel (28 carries, 167 yards) and Isaiah Utt (20 for 107) also factor in the Hawks' running game. The leading receiver is Armstrong whose 11 catches are eight more than anyone else on the roster. He's converted them into 197 yards and three scores.

All told, University has piled up 1,015 yards and surrendered 448, or 338-149 per game.

Savion Johnson leads the Patriots with 197 yards on 35 carries, while Geremy Paige has added 135 yards on four carries. Quarterback Zach Phillips is completing 56 percent of his passes (14 of 25) for 247 yards and three touchdowns. Erik Banks has nine catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns.

''They're a good football team,'' Daugherty said of the Hawks. ''They have been the last two-to-three years. They're no different than they have been. Good athletes and guys that can make plays.

''This is probably the toughest (game) to date. I'd like to think we're ready but I'm sure they think they're ready too.

''Coach Kelley's teams are always good, always well-coached,'' Daugherty said. ''And this is a conference game. If we want to be looked at as one of the top teams in the state, we have to win. And I'm sure they're saying the same things.''

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