Wheeling Park drops to 1-3 after loss to University
WHEELING — Despite having a dominant 3-0 start to their season, the University Hawks entered Saturday’s game against the Wheeling Park Patriots as a bit of an underdog.
Coach John Kelley said his team needed to beat a good team like Park to prove to everyone that University is the real deal this season and that is exactly what they did, picking up a 35-14 victory on the Island to improve to 4-0.
“I said this had to be a signature game to find out if we are for real, I think we answered all the questions and my kids believed all along,” Kelley said. “I told the kids before the game ‘you’re better than them, the only people that don’t believe it are the people out there. You guys can beat these guys.’ And they went out and did it.”
On the flip side, Park now drops to 1-3 on the season. The Patriots were forced to forfeit their game to Cleveland Villa-Angela St. Joseph last week due to COVID concerns and that may have carried over and hurt the team again this week.
“We’ve had very limited practices,” Park coach Chris Daugherty said. “We’ve got some young faces and so to take 10 practices off, there’s no doubt it showed a little bit. There was some definite rust from that long of a layover from Steubenville to here.”
The game started slowly as both teams spent the first quarter feeling one another out. In the second quarter, however, University’s offense kicked it into high gear.
Hawks quarterback Chase Edwards completed touchdown passes to Sage Clawges for 76 yards and Elija Jackson for 24 yards on back-to-back possessions to jump out to a 14-0 lead. A three-yard touchdown run by Colin McBee put University up 20-0 just before halftime.
“We played awfully well,” Kelley said. “Going in I was a little bit nervous, I knew that if we could get out of the first quarter scoreless we’d be in great shape. We managed that and we got the first one on the board and things just started being in our favor.”
University scored again on the first possession of the second half on a nine-yard throw from Edwards to Jackson to take a 26-0 lead.
Despite trailing by 26 in the third quarter, the Patriots fought back to make a game out of it. They stopped the Hawks’ offense for the rest of the quarter and the offense, powered by quarterback Brett Phillips, finally found the endzone. Phillips scored on a 17 yard run and later Hunter Dixon found the endzone to make it a two-score, 28-14 game. University scored on a safety in between Park’s touchdown drives.
“I thought there for a little while we had the mojo,” Daugherty said. “We just needed one more stop and one more touchdown and I think this thing would’ve really got crazy. At the end of the day, credit to University. I thought they had a good game plan and they executed the game plan.”
Once Park got that close, University became determined to run clock and not give them an opportunity to complete the comeback. They leaned on McBee, who ran 23 total times for 140 yards, to drain more than five minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter and then capped it off with McBee’s second touchdown of the game to make the score 35-14.
“It got tense for a little bit there when they scored, but he just keeps moving the chains,” Kelley said. “He’s done it for four games now, he’s carried us for four games that way. He is a beast and he refuses to go down.”
That score would hold as the final as University got off the Island with a win.
The Hawks were able to keep the ball out of the hands of Park’s electric playmaker Jerrae Hawkins. The sophomore had just one catch for 37 yards and University did not even kick it deep to him on kickoffs, instead always opting to kick it short.
“If they’re going to double-team Jerrae then other guys have got to make plays,” Daugherty said. “They did at times and Jarrae made a play at the end, but we would definitely like to see Jerrae touch the ball more. We’ve got to do something if people want to double-team Jerrae then we’ve got to have a plan for that.”
Phillips finished 7-of-20 passing for 115 yards and ran 14 times for 59 yards and a touchdown. His top target was Will James, who caught four passes for 67 yards. Dixon ran 17 times for 55 yards and a score.
For University, Edwards finished 16-23 and threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson caught three passes for 63 yards and two scores and Clawges made four grabs for 92 yards and a touchdown.
“We’ll get better from this game, that’s a good football team over there so at the end of the day we didn’t lose to a slouch,” Daugherty said. “We’re going to have to get a little bit better at some spots and now we have another two-week layover. We have a week off and then we get Fairmont (Senior). Hopefully we get some functional, good practicing because that’s what we need.”
Park’s next game will be against Fairmont Senior on October 1. Daugherty said he hopes to use the week off to get back to a normal practice schedule.
“We’ve just got to clean up some of our mistakes, and the best way to do that is practice,” Daugherty said. “Hopefully we don’t get back into quarantines and that stuff again and get back into some good, functional practices. We’re 1-3 but we knew going in that it was going to be a very, very difficult first half of the season and it’s proven to be that. Credit to our kids, they kept battling at Steubenville and they kept battling here. Good things are going to happen if you keep battling.”