WHEELING - Wheeling Central has been known to have a couple touchdown advantage based on intimidation alone. But Parkersburg Catholic had already played the Nos. 2, 6, 7 and 12 teams in the state and proved far from afraid.
The 16th-seeded Crusaders (6-5) threw a couple early haymakers before eventually suffering a TKO, 39-14 at the hands of Wheeling Central (10-1) in the opening round of the West Virginia Class A playoffs on Friday night at Wheeling Island Stadium.
The Maroon Knights will meet No. 9 Moorefield next weekend.
Wheeling Central’s Gino
Bianconi is caught by Parkersburg Catholic’s Cody Somerville, ground, and Peter
Walters (50) during
Friday’s action at Wheeling Island
''I told some people. They said 'oh, first round? You guys usually run through,' '' Wheeling Central coach Mike Young said. ''We didn't run through. Somebody said the other day '(you'll win by) 30 points.' I said 'no, no, no, no, no. Not against this team.' ''
Coach Jeff Campbell's club won the battle at the line of scrimmage for the majority of the first half and took leads of 7-0 on a Drew Christy 7-yard run, and 14-13 on a 4-yard scamper by Zach Romine. But the Maroon Knights made an adjustment with their defensive ends and Romine was injured just before the end of the first half and didn't return, as Wheeling Central grabbed a 19-14 lead at intermission.
The Crusaders were actually driving for the go-ahead score in the final minute before the Maroon Knights' Michael Pleva stepped in front of a Daniel Collie pass for the first of his two thefts on the night.
''That's one play and there's a bunch of plays in a game,'' Campbell said. ''Yeah, it probably would have (been a different game).
''We had a little bit of an injury there right before half, and when you only have a few kids that makes it hard to adjust.''
The third quarter was scoreless until the 2:41 mark when Wheeling Central sophomore quarterback Parker Henry took over the game. First he went in from 37 yards for a score, then three plays later intercepted Collie and returned it 31 yards for another touchdown, making it two scores in 1:28.
Henry was used sparingly on that side of the ball this season.
''He's a gamer, and when he picks that we knew he was gone,'' Young said. ''It's the type of athletes we have and kids step up.
''That's been our history this year.''
It was also another big night for Central running back Gino Bianconi, who carried the ball 12 times for 169 yards and scored on runs of 63 and 12 yards - his 24th and 25th scores of the season.
''Gino's a great kid and is really fun to be around,'' Young said. ''He's got speed.''
Wheeling Central capped the scoring when Henry, who had 131 yards of offense - 90 rushing, two TDs, and 41 passing - hit Andrew Keane with a 9-yard touchdown pass. But it was the Maroon Knights defense that closed the deal, holding the Crusaders to 39 yards of offense in the second half.
''Our kids played tough,'' Campbell said. ''But you've got to give a lot of credit to Central - they keep coming at you. You try to slow them down and it's hard to do.
''I think you look at that with a lot of the teams we've played - we stood toe-to-toe, but we've just got to make a few more plays and not give up a few more.''
Romine led Parkersburg Catholic with 51 yards on 13 carries. Collie added 49 yards on 12 carries, but was 4-for-14 for 40 yards and was intercepted three times.