Tyler Consolidated, Wheeling Central Clash at Brooke

No. 1 Maroon Knights open title defense

Photos by Alex Kozlowski Mike Young, center, and Wheeling Central open their Class A title defense as the Maroon Knights face Tyler Consolidated at Brooke High School on Friday night.

WELLSBURG — Wheeling Central coach Mike Young has a message for all the Chicken Littles of West Virginia high school football: ”the sky is not falling,” he said.

The top-ranked Maroon Knights (9-1) open defense of their Class A title at 7:30 on Friday night on the turf of Paul ”Bud” Billiard Field inside Brooke Memorial Stadium, when No. 16 Tyler Consolidated (6-4) comes calling. The manner in which they do so, however, has many throughout the state questioning their vulnerability. Wheeling Central is coming off a 21-12 defeat at the hands of fellow Ohio Valley Athletic Conference foe Magnolia.

”I looked at it as we went in against a team that had two weeks to prepare for us and is well-coached,” Young said. ”They were able to exploit areas that were vulnerable and that is a credit to their kids and their staff.

”But we were still in it to win in. With 5 minutes to go we are kicking a field go to up.”

But that field goal was wide of the mark and the Blue Eagles ended up tacking on another touchdown to pull out a victory.

”We had breakdowns at inopportune times and that was the cause of the loss,” Young said.

”We’re on the mend but we’re definitely at fuller strength than we were a week ago.

”You lick your wounds, get up and move on. That is what we did last year for the entire season, so this isn’t new to us.”

It’s not exactly an unfamiliar position for the Silvers Knights, either. They battled to win three of their last four including a 26-7 rout of St. Marys last week just to qualify.

”Two years ago we went to East Hardy and played the No. 1 team,” Tyler Consolidated coach Ryan Walton said. ”Definitely the past two weeks we’ve been in playoff mode where you either win and keep playing, or you lose and turn in the equipment.

”I don’t look for us to go in there with wide eyes. We’ve never played Central, but you look and we’ve played Williamstown, Magnolia and this year Doddridge County, which is a Top-5 team in the state … I think they finished No. 4.

”We’re going to do our best.”

The Silver Knights come in averaging 36.4 points per game and have put lopsided scores on just about every team they’ve played. In their four losses they’ve scored 22, 43, 18 and 13 points, respectively.

”We’re playing a team that has some really good players — (Mark) Rucker is without a doubt one of the best backs we’ve seen this year,” Young said. ”They can put up points.

”I think the difference in the game is going to be our defense. They’re a balanced team and their quarterback (Griffin Phillips) throws a nice ball and can also run with it.

”But I think we can get to them.”

Central quarterback Curtis McGhee III will be back in lineup after missing two full games and almost the entirety of a third. Young said he will play ”sparingly.”

That’s of little consequence to Walton, who says the Silver Knights have a job to do regardless of who is on the field.

”They’ve got a lot of bases covered. I see size and I see speed,” Walton said. ”They’re putting receivers out there that are going to out-size us and they will out-size us on the lines.

”And overall they’ve probably got a little more speed than we do.

”We drew a pretty tough card, but it is where it is.”

That speed will be on display for both teams thanks to the artificial surface. Walton joked that’s a good thing considering his team’s field has ”gone through some water issues, is the nice way of saying it.”

Young is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the administration at Brooke. The game was moved because Wheeling Jesuit is playing host to the Mountain East Conference Volleyball Tournament this weekend. Should Central advance, all future games will be played at Bishop Schmitt Field on the WJU campus.

”Working with (Brooke athletics director) Sean Blumette and (principal) Tim Pannett to provide us a venue of their level … they’ve been ultra-cooperative and a blessing to work with.

”They have met every one of our needs and requests.”