WHEELING - If speed kills as they say, then Wheeling Central Catholic's sensational sophomore quarterback Parker Henry was guilty of inflicting capital punishment on the Moorefield defense during Friday night's West Virginia Class A quarterfinal playoff contest on the frigid turf at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Henry's jet-propelled feet left the Yellowjackets defense gasping for breath as he carried the ball 20 times for 275 yards and four touchdown in sparking the Maroon Knights to a 34-16 victory.
Now 11-1 on the season, Coach Mike Young's team trailed 16-13 at halftime but scored 21 unanswered points assuring the defending state champions a berth in next week's semifinals, also to be played on their home field. Central will meet the winner of today's contest between Bishop Donahue and undefeated East Hardy.
Wheeling Central’s David Stanley (72) plows the way for quarterback Parker Henry to pick up some of his 275 yards Friday night as Wheeling Central advanced past Moorefield in West Virginia Class A playoff action.
''Parker Henry's just a great kid to coach and he may cause me to stay in coaching a couple more years,'' Young cracked after watching the speedster score on runs of 43, 74, 21 and 23 yards. His most impressive carry of the night, however, may have occurred in the third quarter with the Maroon Knights leading 20-16 but facing first-and-30 on their own 35 after being backed up by two penalties on the same play, one being a dead-ball personal foul.
Just as he had done on several earlier runs, Henry took the snap lined up in the shotgun, found a slight hole to break through up the middle and then raced down the left sideline for 41 yards to the Moorefield 24. One play later from the 23, Henry ran another keeper play on which he cut back inside and outraced the secondary to the end zone for the touchdown that all but clinched the victory with 11:15 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Josh See, coach of the Yellowjackets who ended their season with a 7-4 record, watched with both awe and amazement while Henry was decimating his defense.
''That kid can just flat out fly,'' See said, while shaking his head. ''You know speed kills in this game and it doesn't matter what level of football you are playing. When you got a fast guy like that, you've really got your hands full.''
Moorefield's problem coming into the game was more than this young but extremely talented QB. See and his coaches attempted to set up a defense aimed at shutting down the Maroon Knights' other blazer, senior Gino Bianconi, who had rushed for more than 1,500 yards in 11 previous games this season. For most of the night, the strategy worked as Bianconi was limited to 18 yards on eight carries during the opening half. He finally broke through late in the game, finishing with 87 yards on 17 attempts, including a 16-yard touchdown run with 7:24 to play.
''They may have taken Gino out the equation a little bit, but when you take one thing away from us, we have something else to go. (Friday night) it was Parker Henry,'' Young said.
The first half was a typical Moorefield-Wheeling Central back-and-forth postseason battle that the fans from both teams had become used to seeing during the past dozen or so years.
Running behind a big, powerful front line, the Yellow Jackets' Louis Richardson had his way against the Maroon Knights during the first half when he rushed for 86 yards on 11 carries. Both the Yellow Jackets touchdowns, however, came from the passing arm of junior quarterback Adam Snyder, as he hit Lance Taylor for a 10-yard score on a quick fade to go up 6-0, and later Zachary Laughlin from 34 yards out as he ran a slant that put his team back ahead 13-7.
With the score tied 13-13 and less than 2 minutes on the clock in the first half, Moorefield scored what became its final points when Taylor knuckleballed a 32-yard field goal easily through the uprights.
Trailing after the Yellow Jackets' initial 73-yard TD drive, the Maroon Knights bounced right back with Henry zipping through a big hole on the left side during his 43-yard touchdown scamper. Bradley Cottrell's PAT put Central ahead 7-6 with 3:11 left in the first quarter.
Central fell behind again but rallied to tie things up when Henry took off down the right sideline and brushed past a tackle attempt by Brown at the Moorefield 20 to complete a sparkling, 74-yard run.
The Maroon Knights defense and special teams helped turn the game around in the second half. Twice pressure from outside rusher Joe John forced hurried Moorefield punts, the first traveling 9 yards and the second a 22-yarder that gave Central the ball near midfield. Henry scooted for the final 21 yards after faking a handoff to Bianconi and then falling into the end zone when he was hit just short of the goal line. Cottrell's PAT kick the Maroon Knights up 20-16 with just 21 seconds left in the third quarter.
Henry's 41-yard run on first-and-30 and another excellent cutback move that resulted in a 23-yard score, put the lead at 27-16. This score came two three plays after Michael Pleva's interception gave the Maroon Knights the ball back at the Moorefield 46.
Bianconi did most of the damage in Central's final TD drive with runs of 17, 10 and finally 16 yards as he took a quick pitch from Henry and raced around left end for the score.
''I think we wore them down in the second half,'' Young said. ''We played a lot better defensively. Coach (Jamie) Bordas did a great job with the defensive adjustments and Coach (Jason) Rine called an excellent game on offense.''
Bordas related that the Maroon Knights just made a couple of adjustments with their linebackers which helped slow down the Yellowjackets.
''We were doing a little too much shifting in the first half. But what it all came down to was our kids played harder on defense in the second half,'' Bordas said.
See pointed out that injury to Moorefield's split end/defensive back Laughlin while returning the second half kickoff hurt the Yellowjackets on both sides of the ball. Laughlin was hit yard by Maroon Knights special teamer Luke Harto and was limping noticeably whenever he managed to get back on the field the rest of the game.
''It was huge not having him full-go in the second half,'' See said. ''He is just one of those guys you want on the field all the time. We couldn't stretch their defense by throwing the ball down the field and it hurt us defensively as well because he is one of our leading tacklers.
''But Central did a great job making some adjustments and they were able to shut us down in the second half. The credit goes to their kids and their coaching staff. Also field position in the third quarter really hurt because of those two bad punts and the interception kept us backed up the whole time.''
Young finished off his postgame comments by praising last night's opponent.
''They are the old Moorefield for sure,'' Young said. ''They may have been down for a couple of years but they weren't (Friday). They were (8)-3 coming in to the game for a reason, because they played a tough schedule, just like we do. I thought their coaching staff and kids did a great job,'' Young pointed out.