ST. CLAIRSVILLE - As Parker Henry takes the field tonight at Wheeling Island Stadium, there's a chance he might think about how far his prep football career has come in such a short time.
Last summer, as he entered his sophomore season, Henry was expecting to battle for a backup quarterback role for Wheeling Central. But when Lee Peluchette decided to transfer to Wheeling Park, that all changed.
''It was exciting, being a sophomore and all,'' the Maroon Knights quarterback said earlier this week as the team practiced at Red Devils Stadium in preparation for tonight's West Virginia Class A title game against Williamstown.
Parker Henry has stepped in at quarterback and Wheeling Central hasn’t missed a beat.
''I didn't think I would have much of a chance. When Coach (Mike Young) gave me the job, I was really excited to get it.''
Suddenly, the 2011 season took on a whole new outlook. Now, instead of being an understudy, Henry was thrust into one of the most important football roles in the valley - Wheeling Central quarterback.
Many have done the job well in the past and, for Henry, he was honored to be entrusted with the job.
''I was a little nervous at first,'' Henry said, ''but it didn't take me long to get used to everything.''
He had his coaches to thank for that.
''They helped a lot,'' he said. ''They walked me through everything I had to do to get me ready.''
Henry took over an offense that had many new faces. In addition to his, there was a new featured running back in senior Gino Bianconi and five new offensive linemen.
It didn't take long for a chemistry to develop between all of them.
''We worked hard day in and day out,'' Henry said. ''I think that's why we play so well.''
It didn't take long for everyone to start putting up big numbers.
Henry has thrown for 696 yards and 11 touchdowns with just one interception. On the ground, he has racked up 1,230 yards and 17 more TDs.
Like his counterpart in the backfield - Bianconi - Henry is also nearing the 2,000-yard plateau for total offense on the season. Seventy-four yards tonight will do the trick.
Central has never been known as a passing team. While the spin series gets most of the attention on offense, Henry has been very efficient when called upon to throw the ball.
''We run the ball almost every play and when we throw the ball I think it catches teams off-guard,'' Henry said. ''I think that's why we've had so much success.''
Most teams know what Central is going to do offensively. But stopping it hasn't been easy.
''It's confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, it gets easier,'' Henry said. ''I'm sure it's complicated for other teams. But that's good for us.'''
Young praised Henry's ability to grasp the system so quickly and added while all the winning Central does looks easy, to do it over an extended period of time says something about the players he's had.
''You have to have the horses,'' Young said. ''Any coach in America will tell you that you have to have the horses to ride, and at the same time the consistency of the staff and program is based on believing in what we're doing.''
Also contributing to Central's success has been the unselfishness of the players and being willing to do whatever it takes to win.
''I'm always ready,'' Henry said. ''I'm always ready for anything.''