Wheeling Central Still Seeking Victory No. 1

Photo by Alex Kozlowski Dawson Wear (21) and the Wheeling Central Maroon Knights look to snap their two-game losing skid when they welcome rival Williamstown to Bishop Schmitt Field.

WHEELING — In becoming two of West Virginia’s perennial Class A football powers through the years, both Williamstown and Wheeling Central have prided themselves on playing good fundamental football with few mistakes.

However, early in the 2017 campaign, both the Yellowjackets and Maroon Knights have been dealing with self-inflicted mistakes that have both teams riding two-game losing streaks entering Friday night’s important matchup on Bishop Schmitt Field at Wheeling Jesuit University.

Coach Terry Smith’s Williamstown squad won its opener against Tyler Consolidated (54-33) but have since lost to Magnolia and Marietta last week by a 49-14 count. In all the Yellowjackets have allowed 127 points in the three games while scoring 98.

“We have not played very well the last two weeks, but a lot of that had to do with Magnolia and Marietta,” Smith said. “But it seems like we always end up in third-and-long, which is even worse against good teams. We are coming off a week in which we were flagged 13 times.

“Guys are trying, and the effort is there, but bad breaks, mostly hurting ourselves, are killing us. The mistakes have to be eliminated.”

On the other hand, Coach Mike Young’s Central club lost its opener to Steubenville Catholic before falling at powerful East Hardy, 10-7, last Friday night.

“I felt like we played a little better than the score indicated last week,” Young said. “We had a touchdown called back, a couple of bad exchanges and lost yardage on some key penalties.

“We were also held out of the end zone on a play that the kid felt he was in, but that is a judgement call on the road and you can’t leave doubt about those things. A couple of years ago we went there and they hung 60 on us, so we definitely played better this time.”

The biggest thing missing from the Maroon Knights attack has been their usually potent rushing attack. Through two games Wheeling Central still does not have a back that has broken the 100-yard mark.

Senior Dawson Wear has carried 27 times for 90 yards, junior Bray Price has 30 totes for 81 yards while sophomore quarterback Curtis McGhee III has been charted with 20 carries for 49 yards.

McGhee has completed 10 of 16 passes for 112 yards, two scores and an interception with Anthony Robbins and Blake Peluchette each recording touchdown grabs.

Defensively the Maroon Knights were able to limit East Hardy to 234 yards of total offense last week and allowing 342 to Steubenville Catholic two weeks earlier.

“I know they are 0-2, but that is still a really good football team,” Smith said of Wheeling Central. “A couple of plays here or there and they could very easily be 2-0. Our kids know that and are very fired up.

“We had a good workout Monday getting ready for them, and I truly believe the kids will show up ready to play. Just trying to improve a little at a time. This is the type of game that could provide a lot of playoff points, and cause some trouble is you lose, but that is looking way too far down the line.”

Williamstown’s normally staunch defense has struggled through three games. In allowing 127 points, the Yellowjackets are giving up an average of 445 yards a contest. Included in that was 432 on the ground to Magnolia, with Hunter Partridge gaining a school record 360 in the contest and scoring four touchdowns.

Smith’s squad is led by quarterback Carter Haynes and leading rusher Donathan Taylor, who finished with 13 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown in last Friday night’s setback.

“Basically, they are a fundamentally sound football team that can run the ball well and has shown some balance on offense,” Young said. “They are aggressive on defense and they have a lot of tradition and history as well.

“But after watching how much we improved from Game 1 to Game 2, I really like our chances. The kids stepped it up a notch last week and I am very proud of how they have come along.

“The biggest things that we need to do is to get better up front and run the ball harder to get back to what we like to do.”

Williamstown captured last year’s contest by a 36-27 margin, the first regular-season meeting between the two teams since Central downed the ‘Jackets 35-21 in the 2011 state championship game.