Wheeling Park coach Chris Daugherty does not see the success of his Patriots, who are tied for second in the latest W.Va. Class AAA ratings, as a surprise, but rather the culmination for a group of seniors who have bought in from Day 1 of their freshman years.
''I think every year in my tenure we've gotten a little bit better at understanding what it takes to be an upper-echelon football team,'' he said. ''(This senior class's) progression has been above average. They had talent. They didn't rest on that. In past years, we've had some kids who might have rested on their talent.
''That's probably been the biggest change. They bought into the idea it's a four-year progression and you've got to work for four years.''
Theo Blackston and the Wheeling Park Patriots have been bowling over the competition.
It's program building at its finest.
It's also why the Patriots have been able to give two different state-ranked clubs their only losses while ripping off four victories in four weeks themselves.
''This group has some bigger goals,'' Daugherty said. ''They're not satisfied. We will take it one game at a time.''
They'll try to make it 5-for-5 on Friday night at Wheeling Island Stadium when East Liverpool (1-4) pays a visit.
The Potters had bigger goals, too, but for one reason or another, it hasn't worked that way.
Daugherty is not sure why.
''East Liverpool always has tough kids and good athletes,'' he said. ''I see on film they still do. I can see why they were excited and ready to go this year. I don't think they're ready to quit. They don't look like they have. They look like a team that is determined to go get a win every Friday.
''You see glimpses. They make some plays.''
Daugherty likes what he sees in Potters tailback Zach English, who rushed for 73 yards on 13 carries in last week's 26-8 loss to John Marshall in a game where East Liverpool had a difficult time holding onto the ball. The Potters fumbled it eight times and lost five of them.
Wheeling Park has not had such problems, having turned the ball over five times all season. Not only do the Patriots ballcarriers hang onto it, they put it in the end zone.
Bryce Ingram has 271 yards and four touchdowns on 28 carries. Savion Johnson has 402 yards and three touchdowns on 64 carries. Geremy Paige has 197 yards on 12 carries, plus a touchdown and Theo Blackston has 41 yards on nine carries, including a touchdown.
''What's making them so successful is they're not being selfish,'' Daugherty said.
''Not one guy is walking around saying 'I wish I would get the ball more.' Whoever gets the most carries gets the most carries.
''They sometime kid with me, 'Why didn't you call that when I wasn't in there?'
''But with these guys, I don't call plays based on who is in there''
It's because they're all so versatile and interchangeable, a luxury every coach in America would love to have.