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Football Lookahead: History Is Not on Wheeling Park’s Side Against Steubenville

October 24, 2013
By DAVE MORRISON , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING - There is no doubting the numbers. They don't lie.

Steubenville doesn't just own its series with Wheeling Park. It's dominated the series. That might be putting it mildly. Big Red holds a 12-0 advantage.

In fact, unless you are well into your 50s, you probably don't recall the last time a West Virginia team beat Steubenville. That was in 1963, when Weir beat Big Red 24-13. Since then, Steubenville has run off 39 straight victories against Mountain State competition.

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Savion Johnson (21) and Theo Blackston (35) will have to be at their best Friday night vs. Big Red.

Wheeling Park coach Chris Daugherty knows all about the numbers. No need to explain.

Also no reason for people to tell him that this year will be different than any other year simply because Steubenville is an uncharacteristic 5-3, is coming off two straight losses and is fighting for its own playoff life when the teams meet Friday at 7 p.m. at Wheeling Island Stadium.

All that means to Daugherty is that it makes Big Red a dangerous animal.

So ask him about Steubenville and he doesn't hesitate to bring up the fact he has heard time and time again this week heading into the 13th meeting between the Ohio River foes.

''I know everyone is saying they're 5-3, I know they've lost a couple in a row,'' Daugherty said. ''I know they lost to Ursuline. They also lost to Massillion and they lost to the Delaware big school state champion. You have to look at the schedule they play. We think we play a pretty demanding schedule in West Virginia, but the fact of the matter is we don't have any Ursulines or Massillions in West Virginia.

''You know when you play Steubenville, it's always the same thing. It's a physical, fast football team. They have a great football tradition. They have players who are well prepared, well-coached and they go out and play with heart on every down, every play. It's been that way forever.''

Still, Daugherty knows this meeting provides an opportunity. His own team is 6-1 and rated No. 6 in West Virginia, its one loss a 41-38 overtime setback to Morgantown. It's a team that has come together.

''Without a doubt we are having one of our better seasons, and for the last four years, these kids are starting to understand what takes to be a good team,'' Daugherty said. ''They understand that it takes more than just talent, it takes commitment. It takes commitment in the offseason, commitment in the preseason, commitment to what we are trying to do. They have bought in, especially the seniors. We are seeing a changing in our mentality, in the way we are preparing.

''You see Steubenville players come out and play with a lot of heart. What we have to do is meet that, on every play, every snap.''

Wheeling Park prepped for the week with a bounce-back victory against Elkins, a game that saw the Patriots go up fast, then freely substitute the rest of the way.

Sophomore Savion Johnson leads the team on the ground with 630 yards and nine touchdowns on 99 carries. He had 102 on six carries and three scores against Elkins. He has been the workhorse after Bryce Ingram went down with a season-ending ankle injury against Morgantown.

Ingram also missed the first two weeks of the season with a back injury.

He had 361 yards on 33 carries and six TDs after returning against University.

Theo Blackston and Geremy Paige will also see action in the backfield.

Senior Zach Phillips is having a big year behind center, completing 56 of 100 passes for 916 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has been intercepted just twice.

''Zach gives us the ability to throw or run the ball,'' Daugherty said. ''He is really making the right decisions with the ball. He's been accurate and makes very few mistakes. He calls our protection, gets everybody lined up right.''

His top target is Eric Banks, who has 25 catches for 442 yards and three touchdowns and sophomore Chalmer Moffett.

Last week against Ursuline, Steubenville fell behind 29-0 at the half but fought back before falling 46-21. Johnny Blue rushed 11 times for 44 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Quarterback Mandela Lawrance-Burke, who has split time with fellow sophomore Dimitri Collaros, completed 5 of 8 passing for 39 yards and added 28 on the ground.

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