By TRACY WATSON
For The News-Register
WHEELING - It isn't really something that Coach Mike Young plays for, but Wheeling Central has gotten really good at taking games to the final seconds before recording a victory the last three weeks.
Wheeling Central’s Parker Henry (10) and Christian Zane (55) try to bring down a Kiski player during thier game at Wheeling Island Stadium.
After coming up with big plays to hold off both Linsly and Magnolia, the Maroon Knights did it again Saturday night against Kiski.
Central watched a bad punt set up the Cougars in good field position, and a late-game drive bring the visitors to within two points, before surviving a 2-point conversion attempt with 22 seconds to play to record a 20-18 victory against Kiski on Saturday night at Wheeling Island Stadium.
The win moves the Maroon Knights to 5-1 they welcome Ohio Division VII power Shadyside (6-0) to the island turf Friday night at 7 p.m. for another huge showdown.
"We don't have many breezes," Young said. "All five of our wins have come against quality opponents, as did our only loss. You really have to give these kids and this coaching staff so much credit for all the hard work and everything we have accomplished."
Kiski (2-3) played a full four quarters and did not go away against Young's crew. The Cougars had the ball inside the Wheeling Central 10 twice in the second half without putting any points on the board, including a seven-minute march to open the second half.
Following a punt that failed to move the ball a yard, the Cougars went to work with 1:24 to play and needed 1:02 to finally find the end zone again after beginning at their own 43. The two big plays were a 31-yard strike from quarterback Michael Gillespie to Ben Tackett that moved to the ball to the 9 on a fourth-and-11.
After a spike and a pass interference call in the end zone, Gillespie found Terrance Kimball on a fade route to the corner to make it 20-18 with 22 ticks to go. However, Gillespie's pass to the paint on the 2-point try was nowhere near a receiver as the Knights began celebrating.
"This was just a tremendous team effort and a tremendous job overall," Young said. "These kids just kept fighting. We knew Kiski had a very good football team with a couple of Division I recruits, and that they had some very good skill athletes and they showed that.
"Coach (James) Perry is a great guy, they are very well-coached and while they had a bunch of penalties, they don't make too many mental mistakes overall.
"We just ran, tackled and blocked hard and it was a very good game. CJ (Burch) didn't get as much playing time as we might have liked with a little bit of an injury, but everyone hung in until the end."
In holding Central to negative-4 yards of offense in the first quarter, Kiski also managed to put points on the board, capping a 12-play, 70-yard march with a 1-yard burst by James Burke. The drive was kept alive by a 14-yard Gillespie scramble on a fourth-and-long from the 15.
The visitors also managed to keep Wheeling Central's first scoring drive going early in the second quarter, jumping offsides on a fourth-and-1 from the Cougars' 41. Two plays later, Burch hit the left end, made a cut at the 15 and rolled in for a 32-yard touchdown run at 7:03 of the second, tying the score at 6-6 after a pair of missed PATs.
It was Kiski taking the lead on its following drive after getting a 33-yard kickoff return to midfield from Terrance Kimball. Burke again finished things off, this time taking a pitch to the left and rolling into the corner of the end zone. With the try for two failing, it was 12-6 at 3:06.
Central really got the offense going late in the quarter with a 10-play, 52-yard drive that ended with freshman Isaac Rine finding sophomore Brandon Angalich from 5 yards away for a score with 38 seconds showing. Alex Calvert was true on the extra-point this time and the Knights had a 13-12 lead at halftime. On the drive, Central did manage to convert three third-down tries.
After finishing the first quarter with negative yardage, Central finished the half with 107.
In the third quarter, with a first-and-10 from just outside midfield, Henry took a handoff up the middle, broke to the outside and out-raced the Cougars' defense to the end zone for a 51-yard scoring burst for a 20-12 score.
Driving to potentially knot the count with less than eight minutes to play and having already converted three fourth-down plays in the game, Kiski missed a golden opportunity with a dropped pass inside the Central 10 on a fourth-and-15 call from the 27.
Burke finished with 141 rushing yards, while Henry had 101 for Central.