WHEELING - How does Wheeling Central do it, you ask?
How are the Maroon Knights undefeated through four weeks after losing just about every experienced lineman - offense and defense - from a state title-winning club?
Coach Mike Young said it starts - ready for this? - at birth.
''I think expectations are inborn, and that may be literally,'' Young said earlier this week as his club prepared for a road contest at Steubenville Catholic (2-2). ''I went to watch the junior high down at Wheeling Middle on Monday and you can see it even there.
''Call it an infection or whatever.''
That's one illness a fair number of programs up and down the river wouldn't mind having. Consider this: every season since 2000, Wheeling Central has played in either the West Virginia Class A semifinals, or state championship game. Included are seven title trophies.
''They've accepted the challenge and they work hard to get better, and that's one of the joys of coaching these kids,'' Young said. ''I think that's a key, not just this year, but for Central in terms of kids having an opportunity to step up and excel.
''Kids step into starting roles and big-game roles to give us momentum.''
A lot of it though, has to do with attitude.
I get asked a lot of the same questions when I'm out about Steubenville, as I do Wheeling Central. Everyone wants to know how it's possible to maintain such a high level, and I tell them the same thing each time: attitude.
When the Maroon Knights walk on the field each week, they know they're going to win. They don't think, or hope - they know. Of course, that doesn't always mean they will win, but it's a big advantage.
In a lot of ways, Wheeling Central is akin to a bully. Not in behavior, mind you, but in its mentality. The mindset is we're going to knock you on your rear, now what are you going to do about it?
In the words of Charlie Sheen, Wheeling Central only knows one thing: winning!
''Here, that's what it's all about,'' Young said.
Kelley an Honest Man
In a time when a coach watches his team get beat 65-0 and then tells reporters how he's proud of his team because it fought hard, which it obviously didn't, University coach John Kelley is a breath of fresh air.
Following last Friday night's 42-12 rout at the hands of Wheeling Park in which the Hawks scored both their touchdowns in the game's final 2 minutes, Kelley sounded off. He said he didn't see much fight, that his club was outplayed in every facet, and that if things didn't shape up quickly, the younger guys who put those 12 points up against Park's backups, were going to be seeing more playing time.
No doubt Kelley heard from at least one parent sometime this week, and that's too bad. He called it like he saw it and did so in the correct manner, chiding his team for its performance though not going overboard and calling kids out by name.
We as adults need to realize it's OK to tell our children they didn't do as well as they should, or could have. There's nothing wrong with that, and in fact it will be more to their benefit in the long run.
Let's just say I'm decidedly against the ''everyone gets a trophy'' mentality.
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net