By SHAWN RINE
WHEELING - Above everything else, there was one question Wheeling Central needed answered in Saturday night's season-opening football game with Notre Dame. The Maroon Knights have been blessed with more than their share of talent at the skill positions, but there was some concern as to whether a young and inexperienced offensive line would give that group the time it needed to make the magic happen.
Wheeling’s Central Brandon Angalich (4) runs for a touchdown against Notre Dame.
Question asked, and answered. Emphatically.
Brandon Angalich rushed for 104 yards and three touchdowns while sophomore quarterback Isaac Rine completed 8 of 12 passes for 173 yards and three scores and also ran for 97 more and a touchdown, as the top-ranked Maroon Knights (1-0) hammered Notre Dame, 54-21, at Wheeling Island Stadium.
It wasn't so much that Wheeling Central won, but rather than way in which it did. The Maroon Knights unveiled a dynamic, new-look offense that picked up more yards on the ground (385) than the Fighting Irish did all together (366), and finished with 558 total. They felt like they left two touchdowns on the field in the first half, then began kneeling with three minutes remaining and the ball inside the red zone.
''To be able to have that balance in Single-A football is definitely to your benefit, and we're blessed to have that,'' Young said. ''We're going to continue to exploit every opportunity we have.
''What they're giving us we're going to take. What they're taking away we have to blow off.
''I thought even our young kids went in there and executed our running game with what we were trying to do.''
The Fighting Irish (0-1) stayed in the game in the first half behind the hard running of senior Santino Cava, who broke the school's all-time rushing record with a 57-yard touchdown run on his team's first drive. He ended the first half with 144 yards and two touchdowns as the teams left the field tied at 21-21.
''He's a machine and he's been like that since he was a freshman,'' Notre Dame coach Sam Alvaro said. ''He's the best running back I have seen and I will put him against any back in the state - any class.
''They couldn't stop him, but he was out a series or two cramped up in this heat.''
Young said he was disappointed with Central's first-half tackling, and thought the club picked up the intensity after halftime.
Wheeling Central put it all together in the third quarter, turning a close game into a laugher with a 26-0 unanswered points. Rine threw touchdown passes of 57 yards to Kevin Keane, 25 yards to Michael Niggemyer and 8 yards to Luke Fahey, then zigged and zagged his way to a 28-yard scoring run to make it 47-21.
''I think our depth made the difference at running back, and the biggest difference was at the quarterback,'' Young said of Rine, his great nephew. ''I've got to teach him to throw the ball out of bounds or get out of bounds, and know when to lower the shoulder and say 'enough's enough.'
''We need him for 14 games.''
Angalich concluded the scoring with his third touchdown run, an 8-yarder that complemented his other two, which went for 3 and 60 yards. Ben Duplaga, one of three Central seniors, carried 12 times for 94 yards, including a 2-yard, first-quarter score.
''When you start first-and-15 almost every time it makes it tough,'' Alvaro said. ''A lot of our kids told us they were getting tackled and didn't get the calls. Whether they did or not the film will show us.
''You're not going to get every call, I understand that. They played better than us, but hopefully we run into them in the playoffs.''
Cava finished with 195 yards on 26 carries and receiver Noah Bohanna hauled in five passes for 133 yards and a touchdown on the last play of the first half for the Fighting Irish.
Despite the No. 1 ranking, and it should be noted folks at Central only care about those types of things at the end of the season, Young felt the Maroon Knights had something to prove.
''I think we had to make a statement to a team that thought it could come up here and beat us,'' he said. ''They didn't schedule us because they thought they would lose.
''I think it was a statement for a group of kids that are still young.''