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Area Heavyweights Face Off in WV Opener

Park opens with St. C for second-straight season

File Photo Wheeling Park will open their season against St. Clairsville for the second year in a row. The Red Devils won their season opener 42-35 last week.

By SETH STASKEY

For The Intelligencer

St. Clairsville and Wheeling Park probably don’t consider each other rivals.

After all, they’ve only played six times in their history.

But, make no mistake about it, both teams realize that the game is one of the biggest and most anticipated of the season on the yearly.

Another round between the two area heavyweights is slated for Friday night at Red Devil Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.

Wheeling Park wrapped up its preseason last Saturday when it traveled into Maryland to scrimmage perennial powers Fort Hill and Baltimore St. Francis.

“It’s been a long summer and it’s just time to play someone besides another someone wearing a blue (practice) jersey,” Wheeling Park head coach Chris Daugherty said. “Coaches always want more practice time, but it’s time to be done with it and time to play.”

Indeed.

For the second straight season, the Patriots are opening their season with the Red Devils, while St. C. comes into the matchup with a game already under its belt.

The Red Devils make their home debut this week after they went to Carrollton and pulled out a 42-35 victory in a game that they trailed by two touchdowns twice in the first half.

“I took a lot from that game,” St. C. head coach Brett McLean said. “It was a typical opening night in a lot of ways with things not being 100% polished and a lot of things to correct like too many penalties, turnovers and just self-inflicted errors. Those are things that typically lead to a loss, but we found a way to win. We know we can’t let those things become habitual and it’s definitely not going to do us any good this week.”

When the Red Devils went to work in preparation for the Patriots they not only are dealing with a team that’s making its regular-season debut, but also a squad that is breaking in 11 new starters on offense.

But, McLean knows that despite their lack of game experience, the Patriots will send out a talented and fast squad at Red Devil Stadium.

“We know they’re going to have a lot of firepower and speed,” McLean said. “They have physical players on offense and they’re just all-around good players. Their program is really on a good run and Coach Daugherty is getting kids out and playing. They’re really showcasing their athletes well.”

Junior Brett Phillips is slated to take over the quarterback duties.

Names like Jerrae Hawkins, Keohn Stephens and junior Will James are some of the players to watch for Park on offense. Hawkins has elite speed, which was showcased during the spring in track when he ran consistently sub-11 in the 100 as a frosh.

Hunter Nix and Brandon Mundy are ticketed to handle the running back duties.

“We’ve seen what you’d expect (offensively in scrimmages),” Daugherty said. “One minute we look really good and the next minute we don’t look so good. You’re going to have that from guys who are really playing (offense) for the first time. We realize there are going to be some mistakes made, but we have to correct them and continue to grow from them.”

Defensively, the Patriots are much more experienced and they’ll be challenged by a Red Devils’ offense, which was extremely balanced last week. The Red Devils ran and threw the ball well despite three interceptions.

On the ground, senior Jacob Jordan rushed for 107 yards and 2 touchdowns, while senior quarterback Drew Sefsick added 101 yards and a score. Sefsick completed 10-of-17 passes for 177 yards and landed a pair of touchdowns to big-play wide out Colin Oberdick.

“Really, when you look at St. Clairsville (against Carrollton), they had a bad couple of minutes and just took a while to kind of weather through that,” Daugherty noted. “Give credit to their kids and coaches for how they battled back. They’re a very gritty team.”

McLean knows his offense will receive a stiff challenge from a Park defense, which will be led by the likes of Nix, Erick Brothers Jr. and Colton Thomas. Nate Shelek is also a lock-down defender in the secondary.

“Their defense has several returning starters and good players,” McLean said. “They’re down-hill players who want to tackle and get after you.”

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