WHEELING - So much for the classic No. 12 vs. No. 5 matchup.
Wheeling Park made a mockery of that, blitzing South Charleston 55-34 Friday night in the first round of the West Virginia Class AAA playoffs at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Park did little wrong, rolling up 351 yards on the ground and putting together a stout 523 in total offense in advancing to the second round of the playoffs.
Photo by Scott McCloskey
Wheeling Park’s Savion Johnson (21) tries to escape a tackle from a South Charleston defender.
South Charleston, a talented, but young squad, made its living all season off turning turnovers into points (it led the state in turnover differential, 26-8) but the tables turned there as well, as the Patriots parlayed three Black Eagles' turnovers into three touchdowns.
Savion Johnson continued his breakout season with 193 yards rushing and three touchdowns and he also caught two passes for 36 yards and a touchdown.
Geremy Paige, known more for his prowess on defense, added 148 yards and two scores, including a 62-yard touchdown run to seal the game in the fourth quarter.
"We felt like we were going to be able to block it up, and all we really had to do was run the ball," Johnson said. "That's a credit to our line. They did an excellent job of making holes all night.
All we had to do was beat one man, and that's the way we like it. We feel like we are pretty good one-on-one."
They did that from the get-go, driving down the field with precision on the first drive, Johnson doing all the work, with the exception of a penalty, on a 59 yard drive, which he capped with a 23-yard touchdown run.
South Charleston seemed to make its own statement, with a two-play drive, A.D. Cunningham scoring from 20 yards out on an option toss from Kentre Grier.
That's when the Park parade to the end zone started, as it lit up the scoreboard like a pinball machine, aided by key turnovers.
All it took was a little gambling on the part of Park coach Chris Daugherty.
Leading 7-6, Daugherty elected to go for it on fourth-and-19 from the 26. He got more than he bargained for, as Chalmer Moffett caught a pass along the Park sideline and tip-toed down the sideline for a touchdown and a 14-6 lead.
"We were going to put it on our defense (if it didn't work out)," Daugherty said. "That was a real important play."
Johnson scored on the Patriots next drive after a South Charleston punt.
Then the wheels really came off.
Jamez Coles recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Paige capped that off with a 23 -yard run.
On South Charleston's next possession, Theo Blackston picked off a pass and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown.
When the dust cleared, Park had a 34-6 lead.
"All season long we took care of the football," South Charleston coach Donnie Mays said. "Tonight, we didn't do that."
"We're the type of team, if you give us turnovers, we're going to score," Paige said. "I give it to our special teams on that fumble recovery and Theo had a big pick. We take pride in putting points on the board and they turned out to be big.
Park led 34-13 at the half.
Up 41-13, South Charleston tried to get back in the game with a pair of scores, a 1-yard pass from James Richardson and a 20-yard pas to A.D. Cunningham, to make it 41-27 with 7:47 left.
Paige put an end to any hopes of a comeback with a 62-yard run for a touchdown on Park's next offensive play.
"Defense is my calling card, but I feel like I can do anything I have to do whether it is block, run the ball, to help us win," said Paige, who had his second 100-plus yard game of the season. "It just feels good to get this win. This class, us seniors, we have been waiting and working hard for this. It feels great."
Quarterback Zach Phillips continued his consistent, proficient play, completing 8 of 11 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns.
Johnson had a 27-yarder from Phillips that gave the Patriots a 41-13 lead with 4:58 remaining in the third.
Park (10-1) rushed for 351 yards in the game.
"They have a good line," Mays said. "They have a heck of a team. They are 9-1 for a reason and we knew they were a good team."
South Charleston quarterback Kentre Grier had a big night, throwing for 289 yards and rushing for 120. He threw four touchdown passes.
"I thought we did a pretty good job on defense at times," Daugherty said. "We would seem to have them bottled up, then boom. That's what South Charleston can do. That's the type of athletes they have. We are happy just to get the win."
The Patriots will travel to No. 4 Point Pleasant in next week's second round, likely on Friday.