Central Treking To Parkersburg
PARKERSBURG — If you are a fan of tradition in West Virginia high school football you might want to make the trip to Stadium Field Friday night as three-time defending Class A champion Wheeling Central takes on perennial big-school power Parkersburg High.
The game came about due to necessity after the Maroon Knights’ scheduled opponent this week, Winfield, and Big Reds slated foe, Capital, were both sidelined due to the guidelines in their respective counties.
Coach Mike Young will bring a Wheeling Central team to town that has not only won three straight titles, but has also won more football state championships, 12, than any school in the Mountain State. Meanwhile, Coach Mike Byus’ Parkersburg team has captured 11 state titles over the years, more than any other Class AAA team and tied with Bluefield High School for second.
Both school are coming are coming off uncharacteristic losses with the Maroon Knights dropping a 34-6 decision to Class AA powerhouse Poca last week while the Big Reds were throttled, 42-7, by Spring Valley, which has been the state runner-up three of the past four campaigns.
Young’s squad was its own worst enemy against the Dots, fumbling the ball 11 times and losing five. Something you don’t want to do against any team, especially a good one featuring the defending Kennedy Award winner.
“Turnovers will always kill you, but when you are giving the Kennedy Award winner that many more chances to handle the football bad things are going to happen to your football team,” Young admitted. “We have to do a better job executing the offense. There were some exchange problems and just carelessness with the football that cost us dearly.”
The Maroon Knights, at least for the current time, are going to stick with a two-man quarterback rotation that includes senior Payton Marling, who was a key receiving threat on the team last year, and junior Michael Toepfer. Marling was 5 of 6 for 68 yards through the air in the opener while Toepfer was 3 of 4 for 41 yards and a touchdown.
“Both quarterbacks are a little green back there, but I am proud of how both of them played and did their jobs last week,” Young added. “Both are very competitive, and team players and I believe can get us where we need to go. Eventually one of them is going to separate from the other.”
Senior Jordan Waterhouse had a super year as a sophomore at running back and figures to be a key offensive weapon again this year but had a limited workload last week due to an illness and had just six totes for 36 yards. Junior Caleb Ratcliffe caught four passes for 41 yards and a touchdown.
Parkersburg ran into a brick wall as well, running only 35 plays for first downs and 65 total yards of offense in its opener. At the half the Big Reds had one first down, which came due to penalty, and 13 yards of offense while trailing 28-0.
It wasn’t much better on the defensive side as Parkersburg faced a Spring Valley offensive line boasting of three Division I players while allowing nearly 300 yards on the ground.
The Big Reds are led by junior quarterback Bryson Singer, who was 6 of 16 for 35 yards and an interception through the air while rushing five times for 12 yards. As a sophomore Singer became the first player in school history to both pass and rush for 1,000 yards in a single season.
Austin Fleming had a 40-yard reception a week ago while Carter King scored the only Parkersburg touchdown on a 13-yard run that was set-up by the long catch and a pass interference call.
“They are huge, athletic and talented with a very good returning quarterback,” Young said of the Big Reds. And will him they can throw the football all over the field. We have to get to their quarterback on defense and make him make plays.”
After opening the season with Poca and traveling to Parkersburg this week it doesn’t get much easier for Wheeling Central in week three when they are slated to travel to Ohio Valley Athletic Conference rival Shadyside.