POINT PLEASANT - Wheeling Park coach Chris Daugherty was in a fairly jovial mood following his team's 28-7 victory against previously unbeaten and No. 4-ranked Point Pleasant in a West Virginia Class AAA state quarterfinal Friday night at Ohio Valley Bank Track and Field. He got real serious - real fast - when the subject came up.
''No doubt about it,'' Daugherty said when asked if star linebacker Geremy Paige deserves to be the 2013 winner of the Huff Award, which is given annually to the state's top defensive player. ''Now I am starting to even think about the Kennedy.
''Can a defensive player win the Kennedy Award? Probably not. But he has shown that if we wanted to give him the ball he would have rushed for a thousand yards this year.
''We've got a good enough team that we don't have to do that.''
I know what you're thinking. That sounds an awful lot like a coach who is caught up in the moment. After all, Daugherty had just watched Paige register 19 tackles, many of them loud enough to know who made the stop without even seeing it, and tack on a pair of sacks against the overwhelmed Big Blacks (11-1).
By now everyone should know though, that this wasn't a one-game phenomenon. With Friday night's performance, Paige has racked up 140 tackles and 10 sacks for the Patriots (11-1). He's also set to become a three-time, first team all-state selection.
''I definitely think he should win the Huff Award,'' Daugherty said. ''I think one thing that helps is, hopefully by playing some of these teams down south people will get to see how good he is. He's even a better kid, too.''
There's not much doubt about either point, really. Good player, great kid.
If Paige were roughly 1 or 2 inches taller, we wouldn't even be having this talk because he would have scholarship offers all across the land.
As it stands, he's making a mockery of opposing offenses in these playoffs, and doing so in a variety of ways. In an opening-round victory a week ago against South Charleston at Wheeling Island Stadium, Paige played a lot of coverage an destroyed the visitors' short, perimeter passing game. Against the Big Blacks, he outmuscled offensive linemen continuously and lived in the opposing backfield.
''He's a sideline-to-sideline kid,'' Daugherty said. ''It might take him a minute to adjust to what's going on, but he's going to adjust.
''If it's running down South Charleston's receivers on a bubble, he will. If you want to start running the fullback, he's going to go blow him up.
''You might get him once but you're not going to get him over and over.''
Finished this Huff race is not. But Paige, a senior, and Wayne junior Mason Hodge, have distanced themselves considerably from the rest of the field to make it a two-man race. I've seen Hodge in person and the best way to describe him is as an absolute animal.
That being said, it's hard to deny Paige's credentials. The Patriots have beaten University, which has a chance to advance to the semifinals today, as well as Steubenville, which is in the Ohio Division IV state semifinals, South Charleston and now what was a spotless Point Pleasant team before Park got ahold of it.
''Our schedule is so hard that we're used to this. We play big games every week,'' Paige said. ''I can only credit my D-line.
''Probably (I deserve the Huff). I bust my tail and I try.''
Two more victories, though, and Paige and his teammates will raise the only trophy that truly matters, and if it happens, it will do so on the Patriots' home field.''
''It's never happened. It would be perfect,'' Paige said.
The same can be said of the Huff Award.
Shawn Rine can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org