Central O-Line Looks to Pave Way to Title

Maroon Knights take on St. Marys tonight

The big guys up front, such as Luke Lawrence (52) and Luke Duplaga (63) have opened a lot of holes for the Wheeling Central rushing attack. Photo by Kyle Lutz

WHEELING–Every successful football team has skill players who make the big plays and find the end zone, but perhaps the most important component of a winning team is the work done in the trenches by the offensive linemen.

Without the protection from the big guys up front, finding the end zone would be a much harder task to achieve.

The offensive line is one area that has helped the No. 10 seed Wheeling Central Maroon Knights rise from the pack and secure a spot in the W. Va. Class A State Championship at 7 p.m. tonight at Wheeling Island Stadium.

Seniors Luke Lawrence, Patrick Duffy and Michael Runkle, along with junior Luke Duplaga and sophomore Timmy McCabe have led the protecting force for Wheeling Central all season and during its current playoff run and they hope to finish what they started by raising the championship trophy.

“If you go across that front line and look in the trenches,” Central coach Mike Young said, “You’ll find our center Luke Lawrence. What a player and what a kid he is.

“Go from guard to guard, we’ve got Michael Runkle and Timmy McCabe, then, Patrick Duffy and Luke Duplaga at the tackle spots. They are all great kids and they have all battled all season long.”

There is a lot of depth along the line, too, which not only helps during the long and exhausting season, but it brings competition to the starters and keeps the pressure on them to keep working hard to keep their positions.

“Nothing is greater than peer pressure when you have some kids who are vying for positions,” Young said. “If I have a spot made, I’m taking my time walking back to the huddle because I know there is nobody there who is going to replace me, but if I have pressure on me and somebody wants my spot, I’m running back to that huddle.

“We’ve had great competition and peer pressure for positions here and our guys have stepped up.”

The competition for starting spots has made practices at Wheeling Central enjoyable and energetic all season long with players making their cases to see action.

“You’ll have those situations where you have Trey Denniston, who is as big as a house, fighting for position with Hayden Manns,” Young said. “You also have Baron Vogrin, who is all heart and guts, pushing guys along with C.J. Rose. We have kids who want to play and kids who are competitive.

“If you can be competitive at practice, then you are going to be good in a game. That is one of our mainstays, too.”

The practice and competition has worked out perfectly so far for Wheeling Central as the front line has been opening lanes for the backs, receivers and quarterback to showcase their skills, as well.

“Bray Price can be electrifying at times,” Young said. “He has the skills to take it to the house from the backfield and at receiver. He is a versatile and talented individual and it is quite a combo with Dawson Wear and Bray being able to run.”

The O-line will be put to the test one more time, not just paving the way for the Central speedsters but looking to pave the way for a state title.