Park Hits the Road

WHEELING – Many prep teams will spend Saturday going over game plans in advance of the upcoming postseason.

Other teams -including Magnolia playing host to Hundred and Madonna welcoming Cameron- will actually begin their postseason runs with play-in games.

Wheeling Park coach Michael Jebbia and his Patriots?

No on both counts.

The Patriots will board a bus at about 12:30 today and travel South to the Kanawha Valley, for the third time, to take on South Charleston at the famed Double Bubble, also known as the South Charleston Community Center.

It’s a tough trip, not even taking into account the miles put on the bus, for anyone.

Ask Beckley about that, after taking two of its four losses (a regular-season loss and last week a loss in the Mountain State Athletic Conference Night of Champions title game).

Ask anyone.

The place is a virtual House of Horrors for visitors.

South Charleston is 20-1, the lone loss to Capital (72-71), which, if you know the Kanawha Valley, isn’t as shocking as it sounds. The Black Eagles have reeled off 16 straight victories since and have not lost at home since Beckley beat them in last year’s MSAC Night of Champions title game. That’s a run of 372 days, Jebbia pointed out.

That lone loss is the only thing that has kept West Virginia Class AAA from having two undefeated teams heading into the postseason, Washington being the other.

Of course, Jebbia and crew would like to make that two losses for South Charleston.

You can argue facts all you want, but South Charleston has the most sustained success in Class AAA the last seven years. The Black Eagles have been to the state tournament seven straight seasons, they’ve won 20 games in seven of the last eight seasons. Not even Beckley and Martinsburg can say that.

So why take the team south into a hornet’s nest like that at this point?

Well, the contract says so, and Park is repaying South Charleston for a game here last season.

“Coach (Vic) Herbert and I talked and decided that they would come to Wheeling the last weekend of the season and we would return there on the corresponding date the following season,” Jebbia said.

Easy answer.

It’s also win-win for both teams.

“I know a lot of people wouldn’t do it, with the success they’ve had over the past few years,” Jebbia said. “Look, it’s the only (Class AAA regular-season) game going on in the state, and nothing is going to change with the postseason. Our opponent is still going to be Parkersburg on Wednesday. It’s a great chance to compete against one of the best programs in the state.

“The kids are excited about it. There are very few teams with the quickness that South Charleston has. You look at teams like South Charleston, Beckley and Washington, and there is one thing that sets them apart. Not only do they have great athletic ability, and quickness, but they know how to play the game.”

South Charleston’s Brandon Knapper has solidified himself as potentially the best sophomore in the state.

“The list of players who have scored 40 points against Beckley (which Knapper did Feb. 10 in a 74-53 victory) is probably very short,” Jebbia said.

Knapper averages 20.3 points per game and A.D. Cunningham averages 15.1. Kentre Grier, who may be one of the state’s top quarterback the next two years, is also a basketball player.

Wheeling Park can counter that with its own batch of athletic sophomores. Phil Bledsoe averages 12.3 points and 12.7 rebounds, and has 17 double-figure rebound games. Savion Johnson, who well may be the best sophomore running back in the state, is a key reserve, as is Elijah Bell.

Park is led by Ryan Reinbeau’s 18.3 points. Toddy Goodwin-Rowe averages 8.2 points, Trenton Smith 7.9 and Chalmer Mofffett, another top-line football player, averages 6.3.

It has been a pretty good series for both teams, one both coaches want to continue.

They have met five times during Jebbia’s time at Park, and six straight seasons. The series is tied a 4-4, and Park leads it 3-2 with Jebbia at the helm.

They met in the 2009 state tournament, with South Charleston winning. Park returned the favor in the 2010 state tournament.

The two met at the regular-season tournament at the Civic Center in 2011 and 2012 with Park winning both. South Charleston won on the hill in overtime last season.

“We’ve had a good week of practice,” Jebbia said. “Really, it’s been like a football week, where we have had a week to go over our opponent. I told the kids to go down, relax and give ourselves a shot to be in the game late. We have nothing to lose. Just play the game.”

On the way down, the team bus will pass the Charleston Civic Center and offer the squad a look at where it hopes to be 19 days later.

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A couple of interesting notes on tonight’s Class A, Region One, Section One play-in games.

The Cameron-Madonna game will feature two of the state’s tallest players in the Dragons’ Logan Routt (6-foot-10) and the Blue Dons’ Josh Martin (7-1). They are both football players, Routt believed to be the tallest quarterback in the nation and Martin the country’s tallest lineman.

Magnolia likely won’t play super sophomore Preston Boswell against Hundred tonight, though it will be a game-time decision. He missed the Blue Eagles’ game against Madonna on Wednesday, a 57-54 Magnolia victory. Prior to that Boswell had three straight 30-plus game and his 101 points accounted for 54 percent of the Blue Eagles’ offense.

Dave Morrison can be reached via email at dmorrison@theintelligencer.net