Central Meets Beaver Local At West Liberty
WEST LIBERTY — A week after their biggest loss of the season, the Wheeling Central Maroon Knights face a tough test this Friday against red-hot Beaver Local. Central (5-3) is coming off a 35-0 loss to St. Clairsville last Thursday while Beaver (7-2) is riding a seven-game winning streak.
“(The players) will want to redeem themselves, not because we lost to St. Clairsville, but because we didn’t play that well,” said Central coach Mike Young. “We know we can play better than the way we played last week.”
The Maroon Knights turned the ball over four times against the Red Devils and failed to find the endzone. After throwing for 495 yards and 11 touchdowns with just one pick in their previous three games, Central QB Michael Topfer had just 72 yards and two interceptions against St. C.
“You point out the mistakes. You don’t dwell on them, you try to correct them,” Young said. “I think (Toepfer will) move forward.
“He knows the mistakes he made and he’s a kid that wants to do well. He’s got a lot of heart and a lot of desire and I’ll think he’ll step up.”
Since losing to Indian Valley and Salem to begin the season the Beavers have been on a tear, winning their next seven games in dominating fashion.
“They have a real good football team,” Young said of Beaver. “They’ve put together a young group, developed them and are playing real good. We definitely expect them to play well.”
Outside of a 27-21 win over Edison, no opponent has come within 30 points of the Beavers during this winning streak. Coach Mike McKenzie said his team grew up after those first two losses and gave a lot of the team’s success to sophomore quarterback Austin Cline.
“We matured,” McKenzie said. “(Cline) settling in has definitely helped us and we’ve just found our way in a lot of different things. We had some injuries early on and so it was people settling into roles and finding their identity.”
Both teams are sitting in playoff positions as the regular season winds down. With this being the final week of regular season football in Ohio, McKenzie said playing a team like Central is the perfect lead-in into the playoffs.
“Coach Young does a great job with that program. They’re solid, every year they’re extremely fundamental and extremely well-prepared. Every year they’re going to give you a good game,” McKenzie said. “This year they have a lot of offensive weapons, they like to spread it around. They make it tough for us to defend them with all of their weapons.
“It gets you ready for that speed in the playoffs,” he continued. “It gets you ready mentally and physically. I think it’s a good matchup for us and it will get us ready for whoever we play in week 11.”
Central is still a team that is capable of making a return trip to the state title game this year. Their three losses this season have come to teams who are a combined 23-3 heading into this week. Playing a hard schedule is what Young likes to do to get his team ready for the state tournament.
“It’s a challenging schedule,” Young said. “We’ve been able to rally like we have because we play a competitive schedule from the beginning to the end. Then when we do get into single-A opponents, we’ve already been challenged and we respond pretty good.”
Wheeling Central and Beaver will kick off at West Family Stadium on the campus of West Liberty University at 7 p.m. Friday.