RINE: Henry Saves His Best For Biggest Game

WHEELING – There aren’t many coaches with a call in their playbook for first-and-30. But at Wheeling Central they simply refer to it as ‘turn Parker Henry loose.’

The sophomore quarterback picked up 41 yards in that situation Friday night at Wheeling Island Stadium, but in truth that was just a glimpse of the damage he inflicted on No. 9 Moorefield (8-4) during a 34-16 West Virginia Class A quarterfinal victory.

With top-ranked Wheeling Central (11-1) trailing the Yellow Jackets 16-13 at halftime, Coach Mike Young admits to getting a little rowdy in the locker room. Naturally, the quarterback took charge.

”You always look for your quarterback to be the leader on your team,” Young said. ”I’ve told kids that come in as quarterbacks ‘I didn’t pick you, you picked to be quarterback.’

”With that comes a lot of pressure. That pressure’s from the stands. That pressure’s from your teammates. That pressure is maybe from your own family to step up. It just happens that way. It’s the nature of the beast.”

Henry obviously doesn’t mind. Not after he ran for a career-high 275 yards on 20 carries and scored on runs of 43, 74, 21 and 23 yards as the Maroon Knights rolled off the game’s final 21 points. Now the youngster is two victories away from putting his name alongside the likes of Justin Edwards (2000), Bobby Herron (2002, 2004), and Alex (2005, 2006, 2007) and Lee Peluchette (2010) as quarterbacks to lead Wheeling Central to state championships during this last decade-plus of dominance. Tommy Thomas guided the Maroon Knights to a 1979 title.

”I just play hard every game,” the quiet Henry said, succinctly.

For the season, Henry has carried 157 times for 1,074 yards and 16 touchdowns. He hasn’t been asked to throw much, but has completed 30 of 67 for 663 yards and 10 touchdowns without an interception.

Not bad for a guy who planned on playing running back this season before Lee Peluchette’s transfer. Even then, the unassuming Henry didn’t think he would get the job, deferring to Patrick Biega.

”It was a surprise being so young,” Henry said. ”Patrick’s a senior and I thought for sure he was going to get it.

”But Coach gave me a chance and I’m making the best of it.”

The thing is though, football probably isn’t even Henry’s best sport. That distinction would be the game of hockey, which requires a bit of nastiness not usually seen in quarterbacks.

There’s no surprise then that Henry, all 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds of him, is the one delivering most of the hits when he carries the football.

” I just lower my shoulder and run my hardest every play,” he said.

The toughest quarterbacks on the planet endear themselves to their teammates and coaches. But Young said he sometimes cringes when he sees Henry cross the line of scrimmage and seek out someone to hit.

”We really don’t want to see it, but at the same time with him delivering that hit we know he’s not opening his body up to take a big hit,” Young said. ”And they’re trying to get a shot on him too, which I would if I were trying to defend him.

”Parker’s the type of kid that’s had two older brothers that have gone through our system and they’ve shown him the ropes a little bit.

”He has a great family that believes in working hard for what you get. It’s a tribute to him and his family, where he is today, along with our coaches and teammates.”

Sophomore of the Year? I think so. And so do Young and Maroon Knights offensive coordinator Jason Rine.

Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net