Park Takes On Brooke In Crucial Class AAA Battle
Bruins ranked 14th, Patriots sit at 22nd
WHEELING — The hunt is on for the 2021 W.Va. High School playoffs and Brooke and Wheeling Park will be battling it out on Friday night at Wheeling Island Stadium to help solidify a spot in the postseason.
With the top 16 teams in Class AAA earning a playoff spot, Brooke currently sits at 14 with a rating of 7.67 and a 4-2 record.
Park, on the other hand, is at 22 with a 5.4 rating and a 2-3 mark but it will be hoping to boost that ranking on Friday when it plays its first home game since Sept. 18 — a 35-14 loss to University.
“Our kids are always up for the Brooke game,” Park coach Chris Daugherty said. “Plus, throw in the fact that we haven’t been home in a month or so. We’re excited about that. We’ll be in our stadium and our locker room. Brooke is an important week at Wheeling Park every year. There is not a whole lot of talking needed to get up for this game.”
Brooke coach Mac McLean’s squad has three games remaining and he knows that even one loss could put the Bruins on the bubble.
“We’re in a decent spot right now,” McLean said. “But, we have a serious mountain in front of us Friday night. There is a lot of excitement on the team about the postseason but we have to get the majority of our next three games in the win column. If we lose one we’ll probably be on the bubble and if we lose two, we might be a long shot.”
After Park, Brooke’s next two opponents are at Weir and home against Preston.
Although Park sits at 2-3, it is the only team to hand St. Clairsville a loss this season and the Patriots also fell to powerhouse Steubenville, but they are coming off a tough loss to Musselman last week.
“Recently for us we’ve been playing and then we’re off, then we’re playing and then we’re off. It’s been sort of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.,” Daugherty said. “One minute we look pretty good and the next we don’t. We just have to get consistent. We need that more than anything and hopefully we’ll get back on track against Brooke.”
McLean realizes that Park’s record does not reflect the talent that his squad will be facing Friday night.
“I’ve seen them on film against two of the best teams in the valley and you’re not going to keep them out of the end zone,” McLean said. “You just have to try to limit them. I’ll throw out the cliche that our best defense will have to be our offense. We’ll have to consume the clock with long drives and try to keep their quarterback and wide receivers on the sideline. That way we can hang around and maybe catch a break late in the game.”
Park quarterback Brett Phillips is 71-for-119 this year for 1,062 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions, while his top target Jerrae Hawkins has caught McLean’s attention with his speed and 23 receptions for 447 yards and four touchdowns.
“I’ve seen some special kids as a player and as a coach and (Hawkins) is that kind of kid,” McLean said. “If you see him playing on Sundays one day I won’t be shocked. He is on another level than anyone else in the OVAC.
“On defense, they have grown men playing linebacker, too. People look at their record and see some losses but their schedule is tough.”
Daugherty sees a lot of good things on tape when he watches Brooke and the play of quarterback Braelyn Sperringer sits atop that list.
“(Sperringer) does a good job of running their offense,” Daugherty said. “They do a good job schematically with the kids they have. It all fits together and they do a good job on both sides of the line of scrimmage. This is one of the better Brooke teams I’ve seen in a long time. It’s going to be a challenge because I know they’ll be ready.”
Brooke has had some players miss practice this week due to illness, which is not COVID related.
“We’ve been dealing with a bug going through the team but it’s not COVID,” McLean said. “That’s been throwing a wrench in our program with kids missing from practice but we are going to give it all we have on Friday night.”