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Nov 4, 2021
Photo by Joe Lovell Wheeling Central’s Riley Watkins and the Knights are ready for tonight’s game against Oak Glen.
NEW CUMBERLAND — A year ago Wheeling Central was fighting for a chance to get back to Wheeling Island to defend the three Class A state championships the Maroon Knights had piled up over the previous three campaigns while Oak Glen was looking to advance to the same location and a possible trip to the West Virginia Class AA state title contest.
What a difference a season, and a pandemic can make.
Neither team was able to achieve their ultimate goals in 2020, with paper champions eventually being crowned in all three classes and neither Central or the Golden Bears receiving high honors.
Thursday night Coach Mike Young’s 6-3 Maroon Knights will travel to Hancock County to battle Coach Ted Arneault’s 2-5 record Bears with Wheeling Central still in the playoff hunt while Oak Glen is playing out the string and trying to gain experience for 2022.
“We have played some good teams with most of the teams we have played vying for or playing in the playoffs,” Arneault said. “But I would really like to see our seniors go out with some success this week. This senior class has been through a lot and had a lot of success and I would love to see them capitalize and finish.”
Wheeling Central, which has won four of its last five, was sitting in the No. 12 spot in Class A last week and has not played since an impressive 21-7 victory over Ohio playoff-bound Beaver Local two weeks ago. Meanwhile, Oak Glen, which has lost four in a row and has been outscored by a 157-33 margin in those games, dropped a 42-0 decision at John Marshall last Friday.
“Our kids really stepped up against Beaver Local and played some good football,” Young said. “Fundamentals was the difference in the game and we just didn’t make many mistakes. Beaver was a good football team that helped us out with some points. I am very proud of the kid’s hard work and focus.”
Senior quarterback Michael Toepfer threw for 106 yards with a touchdown pass and a scoring run against the Beavers while Riley Watkins had 22 carries for 103 yards and three grabs for 29 more. Lorenzo Ferrera had three catches for 35 yards while Cole O’Neil had a rushing touchdown for the Knights and Jayvon Miller hauled in a 13-yard scoring strike.
“Wheeling Central is a very disciplined, very versatile team with athletes all over the football field,” Arneault admitted. “It is very challenging with all of their shifts and motions and a lot of times it comes down to a game of find the football. They are just so athletic and disciplined.”
Oak Glen was held to just 67 total yards of offense last week against the Monarchs, which included 72 yards rushing on its final possession. While quarterback Trent McCauley and Matt Greenlief are the Golden Bears’ main weapons, Tyler Mozingo had 34 rushing yards a week ago, Nate Davis 15 and Aiden Flowers 13 in a losing effort.
Defensively, Arneault’s crew allowed touchdowns on John Marshall’s first six possessions while his offense was limited to negative yardage at the break.
“They have hit the wall a little bit, especially after playing some good football teams the like of John Marshall and North Marion,” Young added. “But they are still a good football team with some good kids and Ted (Arneault) does a great job up there. They may not make the playoffs but both teams still have plenty to fight for.
“We know they want to end on the best possible note and fight for school pride and we want to continue towards our goals as well.
As for what lies ahead for Wheeling Central, Young believes that the schedule the Maroon Knights play year-in and year-out has a lot to do with their success.
“Anybody will tell you the difference in this game at this level is fundamentals,” Young said. “You have to block and tackle and take care of the football. You just have to overall play the game well.
“We have had a lot of success, especially at this time of the season through the years, and so much of that has to do with the challenging schedule that we play. Our three losses this year were to Bellaire, Shadyside and St. Clairsville, three Ohio playoff teams that are still alive and all three have just one loss. Those are not only great football teams but they are quality programs.
“Losing games like that allows you to step back, lick your wounds and get ready for the next one. I have always been someone that believes that you learn more from your losses than your wins.
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