Park Welcomes Allderdice in Home Opener

Photo by Scott McCloskey Wheeling Park welcomes Taylor Allderdice to Wheeling Island Stadium on Friday for the home opener.

WHEELING — Every high school football team wants to get their program to a point where the word “rebuilding” doesn’t need to be used, but “reloading” is much more acceptable.

Coming into the 2018 high school football season, Coach Chris Daugherty’s Wheeling Park squad knew there were going to be a lot of big shoes to fill, however, if last week’s pounding of rival Brooke was any indication, reloading is definitely the word that needs to be used for the Patriots.

Friday night Daugherty’s team makes its initial appearance of the season, and only one the first half of the campaign, at Wheeling Island Stadium where they will look for a 2-0 start against Taylor Allderdice out of Pittsburgh.

The Dragons came out on the short end of a 24-9 score in their season opener last week against city-rival Kiski Area.

With a virtually an entire new backfield, and mostly new receivers, Park did what it was hoping to do, lean on its big, powerful offensive line to lead the way. The Patriots had nine different players score touchdowns and racked up 453 total yards of offense in a 66-12 throttling of the Bruins in Wellsburg.

“It was a nice win last week at Brooke, but we still have plenty of question marks,” Daugherty said. “We knew we had some talented skill kids, but other than Jack Stakem everyone of them was brand new.

“I know we answered the bell very well last week, but there are still things to work on and fix and we will get even better.”

But it wasn’t just the offense that impressed as the defense managed to hold Brooke out of the end zone, with both of their touchdowns coming on fumble returns, and just 29 yards of offense.

Taking over for all-stater Cross Wilkinson under center, junior Alex Dunlevy completed 13 of 17 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns last week with the Park’s biggest returning offensive threat, senior wide receiver Jack Stakem catching seven for 43 yards and a score.

The revamped backfield was also impressive as the Patriots rushed for 292 yards and had four different players find the end zone. Sophomore Rapheal Bradley was the leader with 16 totes for 138 yards and a score while junior Kenya Robinson added nine carries for 86 and two touchdowns.

While limiting the Bruins to just 29 yards, the defense surrendered just one first down and collected a pair of turnovers as well.

The Patriots defeated Allderdice by a 35-19 count last season, however, it was a year in which Coach Jerry Haslett’s Dragons finished 7-4 and captured its first city-league championship in 50 years. It was the sixth time in Haslett’s 10 years that Allderdice has appeared in the championship game. It is also a team that lost 20 seniors from last year’s squad.

The Dragons boast a 6-foot-5 quarterback in Dalen Dugger, who is a first-year starter in the program. Dugger has a couple of nice targets in classmates Rashawn Harvey at wide receiver and Andrew Williams at tight end.

Like the Patriots, the strength for Allderdice is up front with an offensive line that returns seven of its top eight players from last year.

“They have a big, tall quarterback that can both run and throw the football,” Daugherty said. “And they will both spread you out and come at you in two-back sets.

“And they return most of their line on both sides of the ball with at least three kids over 300 pounds. They have a very active defensive end who is extremely tough to block and some very good skill players. That was a real good Kiski Area team that they lost to last week and this is a team very capable of beating us, so we need to stay clean and avoid mistakes.”

Starting the season 2-0 could go a long way to determining Wheeling Park’s success this season, especially with three consecutive road games at University, Cambridge and Parkersburg next up on the slate.

“It’s only Week 2, but yes, this is a big game for us and could go a long way toward setting up our future,” Daugherty said. “We have a tough stretch coming up and high school football can always be interesting when you are playing on the road.”

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