Magnolia, Central Set For Key Matchup
WHEELING — Just five weeks into the regular season, most high school football coaches will still tell you that there are a lot of games left to play and the playoffs are a long way down the road.
However, when Magnolia travels to Bishop Schmitt Field on the campus of Wheeling Jesuit University on Friday night to take on Wheeling Central, there will not only be plenty of points on the line, one team will exit with a third loss and an uphill battle the rest of the way.
Coach Dave “Doc” Chapman watched his team open with a pair of impressive victories before falling in double-overtime to Shadyside two weeks ago and dropping a hard-to-swallow 35-21 home decision to rival River last Thursday night that has the Blue Eagles sitting at 2-2.
“We are going through a little bit of a gauntlet on our schedule right now, but we will be ready to go Friday night,” Chapman said. “The kids are working hard, they are very resilient and we are focused on Wheeling Central.”
Meanwhile, Mike Young’s Maroon Knights broke their season-opening two-game losing skid last Friday night with a 28-23 victory over Williamstown. Central had fallen to Steubenville Catholic and on the road at East Hardy.
“The key to our season is going to be continuing to learn and getting better,” Young said. “We are still a little bit of a green football team with a young front and a sophomore quarterback.
“Our schedule has been a little challenging with big games every week, but I would rather have it that way and week-in and week-out having to get ready for strong football teams
“I have been very impressed with the improvement of the team to this point and how the kids have developed and matured. And I can’t say enough about the work ethic of our coaches, they are really a great group of guys.”
In its first three games of the season, Magnolia’s defense had allowed 44 points, but was able to contain their opponents. Last week, the Pilots racked up 456 yards on the ground and five touchdowns.
At the same time, senior Hunter Partridge was averaging 183 yards a game on the ground himself before being limited to 62 yards last week as the Blue Eagles put the ball in the air playing catch-up all night. Partridge has rushed for 612 yards on 91 totes and five scores, but watched his average drop to 153 an outing.
“Hunter (Partridge) is our workhorse, but he got a little banged up late in the Shadyside game and he wasn’t fully recovered from that last week,” Chapman said. “That made us go a little more one-dimensional than we wanted to against a good River team.”
Junior quarterback Pat Mirandy had an uneven night as well, hitting only 14 of 32 passes, but finishing with 271 yards and two scores. Unfortunately, he was also intercepted four times. Senior Brooks Parsons was the biggest standout, catching seven passes for 177 yards and a score while returning the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown.
Parsons has 16 grabs for 293 yards and three scores on the season while Leo Herrick had three catches for 38 yards and a score against the Pilots.
“Magnolia is a big, aggressive and very well-coached football team,” Young said. “They have lost a couple of tough games, but they have beaten a couple of pretty good teams also.”
Wheeling Central had struggled getting its offense going early on, but thrived last week against the Yellowjackets. Sophomore quarterback Curtis McGhee III had a breakout game to lead the way.
McGhee was 13 of 20 through the air for 131 yards and two touchdowns while keeping the ball moving on the ground with 141 more yards on 24 carries. Senior Dawson Wear also went past the century mark with 113 yards on 17 tries and two touchdowns while Bray Price caught four passes for 40 yards, including touchdowns of 19 and 21 yards.
“Curtis (McGhee) is really doing a good job developing into a leader of this team,” Young said. “He is setting up the pass nicely with runs and he is gaining confidence both in himself and with his teammates.”
While the Maroon Knights were busy racking up 387 total yards of offense, the defense limited Williamstown to 81 yards on the ground and 188 overall.
“They are always a very good football team and right now their record is no indication of that with the schedule they have played,” Chapman said. “Central is very solid and we know what they have.
“You have to worry about McGhee, Price and Wear as much as anyone, and they have three kids from Bishop Donahue that is really helping them as well. We will have our hands full.
“This is definitely a big game and we need it as much as they do. To get the win we are going to need to play mistake free, create some opportunities and take advantage of them when we do.”
The two teams have met in each of the previous five regular seasons with Central holding a 3-2 advantage, including last year’s 50-28 triumph. The first three games of the current series were decided by a total of 12 points.