WHEELING - You wouldn't blame Wheeling Central Catholic coach Mike Young and Williamstown's Terry Smith if they described Saturday night's West Virginia Class A state championship football game at Wheeling Island Stadium as another ''Groundhog Day.''
Young obviously hopes that, just like in the movie, the script doesn't change at all for this re-run.
The Maroon Knights and Yellowjackets met three straight years from 2005 through 2007 in the Super Six title joust with Central Catholic prevailing on each occasion.
Williamstown did achieve some postseason success against Young's charges in 2008, eking out a 14-13 victory on the home field one week before the Yellowjackets won their school's only Class A football crown by defeating Weirton Madonna. The teams met again in Williamstown during the 2009 quarterfinals with the Maroon Knights coming out on top 28-14.
''We've played them so many times but we haven't beaten them very often,'' Smith said during his visit to Wheeling last Saturday where he watched the Maroon Knights' 37-14 romp against previously undefeated East Hardy in the 2011 semifinals. The overall series has Central with a 4-2 advantage.
''You can talk about all the teams that are going to be good every year, but the No. 1 team is always Wheeling Central,'' Smith added.
Young had his ''here we go again'' view of another state championship matchup against Williamstown.
''I'm not surprised they beat Wahama,'' the Maroon Knights' coach noted after the Yellowjackets prevailed in their semifinal battle of the undefeated.
''Williamstown knows what it takes to get to a championship game. Our coaches scouted their game Friday night and were impressed with their aggressiveness and their ability to step up and dominate Wahama.''
Wahama, which lost to the Maroon Knights 28-14 in the 2010 Class A finale, was the club most fans expected to make the trip back to Wheeling Island Stadium this year for a possible rematch against Central. However, the White Falcons were edged out by the Yellowjackets for the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and had to make the trip to Williamstown last week instead of enjoying a home-field edge.
Coach Smith's team took advantage of playing in front of the home folks and turned in a sparkling defensive perfomance, shutting out the explosive visitors until the final 27 seconds of a 24-7 victory.
''I think our defense played real well and I'm just happy for our seniors,'' said Smith, whose team will bring a spotless 13-0 record against the 12-1 Maroon Knights. ''The defense has been a key to our season. I would also have to credit the leadership of our seven seniors since we started last August. We have a good mixture of veterans to go with our juniors and sophomores.''
Leading the Yellowjackets' vaunted running game is senior Trey King, the 6-foot, 185-pound tailback. King carried 26 times for 164 yards and one touchdown last week, giving him 1,721 yards rushing for the season. The power runner with good speed has reached the end zone 26 times, three of them coming on the receiving end of passes thrown by sophomore quarterback Jake Tracewell (6-1, 160).
Although Williamstown is regarded as more of a running team, Tracewell has been sharp during the postseason with six touchdown passes the last three games.
Fullback Eli Gray, a 5-11, 190-pound junior, also moves very well, something he showed the Central coaches against Wahama when be raced up the middle for an 84-yard touchdown that put the Yellowjackets ahead 14-0 with a little more than a minute to play in the opening half.
Two other rushing threats are Michael Adams, a 5-11, 218-pound junior and senior Zach Zide, 5-10, 165-pounder with good speed. Zide and Tracewell also have proven to be ballhawks in the secondary. Against Wahama, Tracewell picked off two passes while Zide had one INT.
Anchoring the huge Williamstown line are a couple of juniors in 6-3, 305-pound Avery Goff and 6-0, 295-pound John Rauch.
''We know from playing against Coach Smith in the past that his team is always well-coached,'' Young said. ''They use good schemes on both sides sides of the ball. We have to go out and block and tackle well, execute our offense and take advantage of every opportunity to put points on the board.''
There isn't much Wheeling Central does on offense that the Yellowjackets haven't seen in prior meetings with one big exception - that is the speed at the quarterback position by the Maroon Knights' dynamic sophomore Parker Henry
''The quarterback is quicker than the ones we played against in the past,'' Smith said.
Henry and Gino Bianconi, Central's leading rusher this season, continued their postseason success in the victory against East Hardy, combining for more than 330 yards rushing before taking seats on the bench in the fourth quarter.
Bianconi scored three times as he rambled for 175 yards on 19 carries, giving him 1,777 yards and 26 touchdowns. Add in three receiving scores and Bianconi enters the state final one TD shy of 30. Henry, after scoring four times and running for 275 yards in the quarterfinals against Moorefield, had 162 yards rushing last week, pushing his season total to 1,138 yards.
Henry also hit on his 11th touchdown pass, a 21-yard screen pass connection with junior tight end Braxton Nolte. Through the air, he has hit on 32 of 73 attempts for 696 yards with just one interceptions. Nolte's busy afternoon included six tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Additional running contributions have come from seniors Andrew Keane and Erik Gompers, who have rushed for 425 and 374 yards, respectively.
Those mind-boggling staticstics can also be tied in with a remarkable effort by a Central line that is now of all-star quality although entering the season with just one returning starter in Nolte. Starters on the interior line Saturday night are expected to be Derek Yocke at center, Nick Naumann and Ian Iuliucci the guards and Chance Siebieda and David Siebieda at the tackle spots.
The defense could be minus one key contributor as sophomore inside linebacking stalwart Gary Gwynn went down with a knee injury last Saturday. Gwynn and defensive end Nolte have been the Maroon Knights' season-long tackling leaders.
Nolte leads the way with 102 tackles and seven sacks, while Gwynn has 96 tackles, followed by Gompers with 88.
''Gary has hustled his tail off and given us a great year,'' Young said early this week, pointing out that Gwynn's status for the state final won't be known for a couple of days. If Gwynn can't play, his spot in the lineup would likely be taken by Naumann, who just returned from the injury list two weeks ago.
Other defensive starters are nose guard Seth Yost, defensive end Patrick Biega, inside linebacker Joey John, outside linebackers Gompers and Keane, corners Ian Yahnke and Michael Pleva and safeties Conner Peklinsky and C.J. Burch.
Young, the head coach for four of Wheeling Central's seven state championships collected since 2000, is ecstatic about the success of his current squad.
''This group of kids has accomplished a lot when 13 games ago back in August nobody gave them much of a shot getting this far,'' he noted. ''They worked hard, overcame a lot of injuries and kept getting better every game even after getting smacked in the mouth by Linsly. They never quit and never stopped believing they could be in position to win a state championship.''