Wheeling Central blazes past South Harrison

MOVING ON — Wheeling Central’s Bray Price runs against South Harrison in a Class A quarterfinal matchup on Friday. (Kyle Jenkins/Clarksburg Exponent Telegram)

CLARKSBURG – All eyes were on South Harrison running back Freddie Canary, the fastest kid in the state.

Well, Wheeling Central has some pretty fast kids, too.

Curtis McGhee III and Dawson Wear broke free for two long touchdown runs in the first quarter, Bray Price returned a kickoff 84 yards for a score and the Wheeling Central defense held Canary in check in a dominating 39-6 victory in a quarterfinal of the W.Va. Class A playoffs at Robert C. Byrd High School.

“The kids played from beginning to end and I am very proud of them,” Wheeling Central coach Mike Young said. “The coaches did an unbelievable job of stopping Canary. He is a heckuva back. He has great speed, but we have some pretty fast kids, too, in Brayden Price and Curt McGhee.

“I am very proud of what our entire team did in playing four quarters.”

The Hawks came into Friday’s contest as the No. 2 seed, but it will be No. 10 Wheeling Central that moves on. And not only moving on, hosting next week at Wheeling Jesuit as No. 11 Summers County knocked off No. 3 Midland Trail, 6-0.

The date and time will be determined Sunday.

Canary was coming off a record performance last week in a victory against Richwood, but was held to 30 carries for 123 yards (50 coming on his touchdown run) by a swarming Maroon Knights defense.

Standout running backs have been nothing new to Wheeling Central, having already had to deal with Madonna’s Donavan Kirby, Shadyside’s Connor Banco and Alex Krupa, and Martins Ferry’s Dalton Hoover, just to name a few.

That helped Young and his staff draw up a similar approach.

“We definitely used that as a ledger,” Young said. “We have been challenged with from playing those great backs all year long and (Friday) it all clicked.

“Our key was not to overextend, not penetrate too deep and give him those angles to cut back. We played our positions and that was huge in taking pressure off our linebackers. Adam Murray had an unbelievable night and so did Vinny Mangino. Our ends in Timmy McCabe and Logan Wells did a dynamic job, so did (Luke) Duplaga and Trey Denniston up front.”

South Harrison opened with its best drive, getting down to the Wheeling Central 22, but a dropped pass in the end zone and an incomplete pass on fourth down stalled the drive.

Four plays later, Wear busted through the line and was gone from 66 yards as the Maroon Knights struck first.

A South Harrison punt pinned Wheeling Central deep in its territory. No big deal.

McGhee took a high snap, tucked it in and raced down the sideline, outrunning the Hawks defense for a 93-yard score.

“They came ready to play and I didn’t have my troops ready to play so that is all on me,” South Harrison coach Brad Jett said. “Wheeling Central, it seemed like every time we thought we had them shut down, they would come out in that read formation and took it to us.

“If we would have scored on that opening drive, it may have been a different story. Wheeling Central is used to this situation and that experience showed up. I don’t make excuses, they were the better team.”

On the next Hawks drive, Canary finally got something going, taking a third-and-1 handoff at midfield and after he got past the line of scrimmage, used his much-talked about speed on his way to the end zone to cut the deficit to 14-6 with 12 seconds left in the first quarter.

But any momentum the Hawks may have gained was gone in 11 seconds.

Price took the ensuing kickoff from his 16-yard line and showed he is pretty fast, too. The 84-yard kickoff return to close out the first quarter shifted the momentum back in the favor of the Maroon Knights.

“That was huge, not just for Bray, but also for our entire team,” Young said with a big smile. “”They wanted to see to Bray match up with Canary with them both being speedsters.”

Jett was just as shocked as the rest of his team.

“That hurts,” he said. “Any time you think you seize some momentum and you give it right back. They have a nice ball club and we watched all their film over and over again. I wish them the best of luck.”

Wheeling Central scored on a shovel pass from McGhee to Mangino for an 11-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The Maroon Knights tacked on two scores in third quarter – a 28-yard pass from McGhee to Anthony Robbins and a Wells 11-yard run – that sealed a victory and sent the South Harrison faithful to the exits.

McGhee finished with 122 yards rushing to pace the Maroon Knights, while also completing 5 of 6 passes for 70 yards and two scores. Wear added 118 yards on 10 carries and a score.