WHEELING - Wheeling Central coach Mike Young admits his Maroon Knights have been fortunate this season.
In the season opener against Harrison Central, it took an oh-so-close stop on a last second two-point conversion to hold on for a 7-6 victory.
Last week, it was a 9-yard pass from freshman Isaac Rine to senior Parker Henry with 30 seconds left that gave Central a 21-20 lead in a game the Maroon Knights won 27-20 (after a field goal was blocked and returned for a score by Derrick Yocke (who also had a safety in the game).
Luck or some type of divine intervention?
"You always have to believe in that power of prayer," Young said, laughing.
Whatever it is, the Knights have maintained a steely resolve through the first half of the season.
On Saturday night, Class A No. 10 Wheeling Central (4-1) welcomes Kiski School (2-2).
"They're big, they're a physical team and they are athletic," Young said of the Cougars. "We know we have our work cut out for us."
Young said Kiski reminds him of Westinghouse, a team the Knights beat 35-14 earlier in the season.
The Cougars beat Mercersburg last week, 21-14, and also beat the Columbus Crusaders, 21-0. Kiski has lost to Boys Latin (38-14) and Archbishop Curley (46-25).
Kiski runs a multiple defense, and will go into either a 3-4 or 4-3, based on what is working and offensively, they run a Pro-I set.
While Young is happy with his team's ability to stave off losing, to grab victory from the jaws of defeat, he sees plenty of room for improvement.
Most pressing is putting four quarters together in one game, something that hasn't happened, especially in the last two games.
"We've been fortunate in terms of how our kids have stepped up and haven't folded," Young said. "We have to put four quarters together. Against Linsly (a 26-21 victory), we played good football in the first half and not-so-well in the second half. Against Magnolia, we played well in the second half, but we did not play well in the first half."
Still, both were victories.
Expect to see more of freshman Rine at quarterback, simply because it allows the team leaders - Parker Henry (the normal starter at quarterback) , C.J. Burch and Joey John - to move to a position that benefits their attributes, and gives the opponent a different look.
"It gives us a whole lot of versatility, moving Parker and C.J. both to wings and Joey John to fullback," Young said. "Those are our three captains. They have an opportunity to show their leadership and their versatility."
Young also lamented the fact that Central made four trips into Magnolia's red zone and came away empty.
"When you get those opportunities, you have to take advantage of them," he said. "It's something we have talked about.''
Young also praised the work of his offensive line - center Yocke, guards Cody Knecht and Isaac Calvert, tackles Brett Blazer and Peter Hartzell and tight end Tom Watkins.
After Magnolia held Central to 25 yards rushing in the first half, the Maroon Knights rushed for more than 200 in the second half and both Henry and Burch surpassed 100 yards.
"We talked to those kids and told them they were our unsung heroes," Young said.
One thing that would help, Young said, is to get out of the gates quickly, and that starts up front.
"We run a lot of misdirection and counter (plays)," Young said. "We have to stay engaged longer and hold those blocks."