Huskies hold off Knights

WHEELING – Wheeling Central was doing what Wheeling Central does.

With a mountain of adversity in the rear-view and 1 yard from another potential storybook comeback, Harrison Central’s Tyler Rose would have none of it.

Facing a fourth-and-goal and trailing by a touchdown with clock winding under 5 minutes, the Knights’ C.J. Burch, who was on his way to a 32-carry, 225-yard rushing effort, was stuffed by Rose in the backfield, the defensive end effectively writing his own chapter to this game, authoring the key play as his Huskies went on to win, 14-7.

Harrison Central coach Justin Kropka was quick to give Rose and defensive coordinator Mike Valesko credit for that play. The Huskies, who had shown a four-man front all night, put the cheerleaders and the band in the box for this particular snap.

”I think it confused their blocking scheme a little bit, and Tyler Rose is probably the best tackler on our team,” Kropka said. ”I think it just confused them up front and they left the wrong guy unblocked.”

They sure did.

”We didn’t block it,” Wheeling Central coach Mike Young said. ”We didn’t execute.”

Still, the Maroon Knights weren’t done.

Two plays later, as Huskies stud running back Maurtice Hython was ripping off a 76-yard run to the 21, he had it stripped and gave the ball back to the Knights inside of two minutes left.

They got all the way back to their own 35 before turning the ball over on downs. A passing game might have helped, but the Knights finished this one with zero passing yards, 0-for-7.

Of course, there’s a reason for that. With starting quarterback Parker Henry on the sidelines with a well-documented injury, Young had about 5 minutes to get Burch ready to play quarterback, one of several position changes for the guys in maroon in 2012. When Henry was able to get back to his customary tailback position, freshman Matt Gruber, a QB at St. Michael’s this time a year ago, was in there.

At one point, the Knights ran the ball 29 times in 30 plays.

Can you win a game without a passing yard?

”Yeah, you can,” Young said. ”We almost did. Credit to their team. They could have blown us off the field. And they didn’t. Our kids didn’t quit.”

Kropka knew Henry’s injury left his defense something to exploit, Burch’s 225 yards notwithstanding.

”Give Coach Young and their staff a tremendous amount of credit,” Kropka said. ”I know what it’s like to try and get a team up after you lose your main guy, especially your quarterback. To be honest with you, I wish he would have played. The outcome may have been different. If you design a valley football player, you look at Parker Henry. He doesn’t wow you, but then he comes out and just plays.”

But still …

”Any time you can play on the road, especially against a team the caliber of Wheeling Central, and pull out a win, man that’s big,” Kropka said. ”It just starts your season on the right foot. We’ve got bigger and better things planned for this year, so it’s just the first step.”

The Huskies (1-0) got on the board first when quarterback Rashaen Mitchell capped a four-play, 67-yard drive, highlighted by his own 57-yard streak, with a 1-yard plunge. Mitchell and Hython each amassed more than 60 rushing yards in the first half.

Wheeling Central (0-1), which was held to 69 yards and three first downs in the first half while continually shooting itself in the foot with penalties, tied the game with an 11-play, 60-yard drive that spanned the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarters. Burch, who had 58 yards on the spurt, capped it with a 10-yard touchdown.

Harrison Central then pulled ahead with a 10-play, 79-yard drive, with Hython finishing things off with a 1-yard score.

He carried it 24 times with 22 eyes focused on him on each one of them. Yet he finished with 194 yards.

”That’s Maurtice,” Kropka said. ”I wish I could tell you I had anything to do with how good he is, other than maybe the weight room. What he has, you can’t teach. You just have to give him the ball and things usually work out for the Huskies.”

Life will go on for Wheeling Central.

”This was a good measuring stick for us in terms of caliber of team,” Young said. ”A lot of skill, lot of talent. We made a lot of mental mistakes in the first half. We corrected a lot of those in the second half. We had some breakdowns in blocking and tackling, which in the first game, you will. Our blocking and tackling has to improve. And that’s what we’ll work on each week.”