By JIM ELLIOTT
WHEELING - There were some who believed No. 7-rated Wheeling Park's game against winless Elkins on Friday night was over before it started.
Wheeing Park’s Eric Banks (1) and C.J. Pelkey (54) look to provide blocks for Theo Blackston (35).
It wasn't. It took 13 offensive snaps for that.
By that time, the Tigers (0-7) had lost two fumbles deep in Wheeling Park territory and had a punt partially blocked from their own 8. Wheeling Park (6-1) cashed in each of those opportunities and led 21-0 midway through the first quarter.
It was already time to start the bus and Elkins coach Greg Hott, a man who wears dry fit jackets and teaches a hundred-year-old offense, knew it.
''I felt we could come up and do some things offensively as long as we took care of the ball,'' he said. ''We didn't do that.
''We turned the ball over early and often. You can't do that against a very good football team like Wheeling Park. They'll take advantage of it quickly.''
The Patriots sure did.
Savion Johnson, who had five carries for 101 yards and three touchdowns in a game he was as much a spectator as those in the stands in the second half, went untouched from 33 yards on Park's first play.
After the blocked punt, Park scored on its third snap when Zach Phillips found Michael Grove on a 3-yard slant pass.
Elkins got it back for two plays, the second of which was a fumble that Theo Blackston returned 21 yards for a score.
The Patriots did all of that in 5 minutes, 45 seconds.
''You have to start fast because the worst thing you can do is let them get a little bit of hope,'' Wheeling Park coach Chris Daugherty said. ''We did a good job of getting after it right at the get-go. We didn't do anything too, too silly and put ourselves in a bad spot.''
Hardly. The worst thing you could say about the Patriots' first half was they had three penalties for 20 yards, and one of those was a kickoff out of bounds.
Park added another score with 44 seconds left in the first quarter on a Geremy Paige 6-yard run and two more in the second quarter on runs of 59 and 2 yards by Johnson, the Generation Next of Wheeling Park running backs.
All of this confirmed the beliefs Hott had most of the week.
''It was what I thought when I watched film,'' he said. ''Wheeling Park's one of the best teams in the state of West Virginia.''
Elkins did all of the scoring in the second half, as Daugherty called off the dogs. Elkins had 66 yards on 33 carries in the first half and finished with 227 on 59. The Tigers completed the only pass they threw, good for seven yards .
Ben Lonergan, the director of the long-since-forgotten single-wing offense, cashed one in from 8 yards on his way to a game-best 106 yards on 23 carries. Later, Trevor Kiess, who had 46 yards on six carries, dashed in from the 10.
It's just one of those years in Elkins, where the top seven ballcarriers graduated and not a single player returned with so much as 1 rushing yard on his resume.
''If you've coached or played long enough, you're going to be right where they are,'' Daugherty said. ''It's inevitable.''
Dylan Lucas added 62 yards on 22 carries for the Tigers.
Wheeling Park quarterback Zach Phillips was a perfect 5-for-5 in the first half, zipping an array of passes to four different receivers. Backup Killian Coyne completed 2 of 3 for 26. Things went so well for the Patriots, third-stringer Jake Laing got in on the act, throwing a pass that was broken up.
''It's nice to see the rest of the football team go out there,'' Daugherty said. ''When you have 75 kids on the team, you have 75 kids working hard. They went through the same August, they went through the same torture that all of these kids go through. So nights like this, it's nice to see the other 40 go out and make plays. We've got some nice young kids that made plays.''