WHEELING - Theo Blackston entered the 2014 season with some rather lofty goals.
He overshot those goals with a record-shattering blitz Friday night in the Patriots' season-opening 30-13 victory against Allderdice. Pa. on Friday night at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Even if it was on the wrong side of the ball.
Photo by Andy Lloyd/Wheeling Park’s Theo Blackston (44) runs over an Allderdice defender as Troy Salatino (61) leads and Henry Gompers (64) brings up the rear.
Blackston, who is replacing Kennedy Award candidate Savion Johnson, who was lost for the season with a knee injury, rushed for a school-record 296 yards and three touchdowns, on a bruising 43 carries.
Blackston eclipsed the record set by the late Dino Cardinelli, who had 278 yards against North Marion in 2000.
Not the way Blackston drew it up before the start of fall camp.
"I came into the season with a goal of winning the Huff Award (state's top defensive player, won by former teammate Geremy Paige last season)," said Blackston, a linebacker by trade. "That's a goal I've had since I started as a sophomore."
Why stop at the Huff? What about the Kennedy Award?
"You will never hear me talk about that," Blackston said, smiling.
Park certainly wasn't smiling early.After six straight runs by Blackston on the Patriots' first drive, quarterback Killian Coyne was intercepted by Tim Jackson, who returned the ball 82 yards to the Park 8-yard line. James Jackson scored three plays later from seven yards out to give the Dragons the lead.
It didn't last.
Michael Grove scored from 24 yards out on the Patriots' next drive, while Blackston was getting a short rest.
Freshman Chase Gheen made the extra point, notable because Park would never relinquish that lead.
Blackston did all the damage on the next Park drive, going 58 yards on five carries, scoring on a 16-yard carry to make it 14-6.
The Patriots took advantage of a fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff (when two Allderdice players collided trying to field the kick when Gheen converted a 31-yard field goal to make it 17-6 at the half.
Park closed it out in the second half when Blackston scored twice.
"My dad preached all week for me to just go out there and run hard," Blackston said. "That's what I tried to do. Go out there and run hard. Obviously we miss Savion. The plan all along was I would get some carries. I just have to have more carries now."
Not that coach Chris Daugherty drew it up that way.
"No, I don't think you're going to see Theo carrying the ball 43 times every week," Daugherty said. "That was effective tonight, it was working and it's what we needed to do to win the game. It says a lot about Theo but it also says a lot about our line. You have to understand when Savion went down, we not only had to move Theo to H (halfback), but we had to move Isaac Turner, who moved to F (fullback). We thought we would have a strong line and they proved that."
No need convincing Allderdice coach Jerry Haslett.
"We knew they had a good team, and we'd have to play well to beat them," Haslett said. "They run the ball extremely well behind a good line. But we did not think they could pass on us and you saw what happened the first time they did (Jackson's 82-yard interception return). After that happened we were saying, 'They won't pass again tonight.' And that is nearly what happened."
Park would throw only four more passes the rest of the night, completing two for 20 yards, including a 15-yard completion to Blackston out of the backfield.
The increased workload for Blackston on offense meant a decreased workload on defense.
"I'd say he didn't play 10 snaps on defense," Daugherty said. "The guys who filled in did a good job, so we really didn't have to play him much on the defensive side."
Park held the Dragons' high-octane offense, led by quarterback James Jackson, to 198 yards (97 rushing, 101 passing) of total offense. Returning all-state defensive end Chalmer Moffett was a disruptive force all night, with a sack and a fumble recovery.
"He spent a lot of time taking up blockers and was in the backfield forcing their quarterback to scramble around," Daugherty said. "I don't know if we will see a better quarterback this season. But I thought our defense did a good job of bottling him up when we had to do it. And Chalmer was a big part of that."
For now, Blackston is still getting used to being an offensive standout. Just don't expect him to mention the Kennedy Award.
"I won't talk about that," Blackston said. "If the media wants to, that's fine. But I'm not saying a word about it."
His actions, at least for one week, spoke loudly enough.