Wheeling Park Welcomes No. 3 Musselman
Patriots are back on winning track after blanking Morgantown
WHEELING — The resiliency of the Wheeling Park Patriots was on full display last Friday at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Coach Chris Daugherty’s charges suffered the most painful of heartbreaking losses at Parkersburg a week prior.
After rallying from three scores down on two separate occasions and finally taking the lead inside the final minute, Park fell victim to a Big Reds’ trick play in the waning seconds to lose, 57-51.
The Patriots used that hard-to-swallow setback as a catalyst to deliver one of its most impressive performances of the season, a 31-0 Homecoming blasting of Morgantown. The win improved the Patriots to a sparkling 5-1.
“I was real happy with how are kids responded from the Parkersburg game. Our kids kept fighting at University and came back and won. We fought back from down 31-7 at Parkersburg,” Daugherty said. “We had a few days to lick our wounds and I knew our kids would respond. I was proud of their effort. We played very physical football against Morgantown and our defense really stepped it up.”
Park has little time to rest on its laurels. The Patriots have another acid test this week as Musselman makes the lengthy trip from the Eastern Panhandle to the Friendly City.
The Applemen of fifth-year coach Brian Thomas are sporting a 6-0 record. They are coming off a 12-7 squeaker over Hedgesville. That followed a 13-7 triumph over Morgantown.
“Musselman will give up a lot of different formations. They like to run the football,” Daugherty said. “They have done a lot of scoring. Our defense has to be able to recognize what Musselman is doing.”
The Applemen attack is triggered by quarterback Tre Beard. The 6-foot, 185-pound senior is a dual threat with 700 passing yards and more than 400 rushing yards.
Musselman opened the season with four convincing wins. The Applemen trounced Spring Mills (45-21), Hampshire (47-7), Jefferson (22-0) and Princeton (61-28).
“We have a really good group of kids. They have great camaraderie and are fun to coach. Sometimes people overlook that for talent,” Thomas said. “Things are going well. We caught some breaks lately.
“Wheeling Park will be the best team we have played so far. They have an impressive offensive line and their defense flies to the ball. They are big and physical and are well-coached. It will be a challenge.”
The potent Patriots are averaging 47 points a game. The 31 against Morgantown was their lowest output of the season.
Park’s offense will be challenged by a solid Musselman defense. The Applemen have yielded 70 points in six games.
Despite the hiccup at Parkersburg, Daugherty is pleased with his OVAC Class 5A leading squad.
“I am very happy with where our team is at right now,” Daugherty said. “If you would have told me before the season that we would have played four out of first six games on the road and still be 5-1, I would have taken that in a heartbeat.”
Park boasts a crunching ground game attack, boasting a pair of standout backs in Rapheal Bradley and Kenya Robinson. Sophomore Stevie Mitchell also enjoyed a breakout overall performance against Morgantown.
The Patriots’ offense is not just a ground-and-pound unit. Alex Dunlevy is developing into a dynamic quarterback. The rising junior tossed for 197 yards and two TDs against the Mohigans.
In addition to Morgantown, Park owns wins over Brooke (66-12), Allderdice (34-7), University (45-38) and Cambridge (56-29).
“I like taking a long road trip every year. Coming this far doesn’t bother me at all,” Thomas said. “Trips like this help prepare you for the playoffs.”
Both teams are positioned well for postseason. Musselman is currently ranked No. 3 while Wheeling Park is No. 6.
Musselman, which went 8-2 last year before losing to Cabell-Midland in the first round of the playoffs, boasts three state football championships: Class A in 1974 and Class AA in both 1982 and 1995. All three Applemen title teams were coached by Denny Price, a Paden City native. He retired as the winningest grid coach in state annals with 276.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.