RED JACKET – In the past few years Wheeling Central Catholic has been a thorn in the side of Mingo County’s high school football teams. That didn’t change this past Saturday as the Maroon Knights made the trek south and defeated the Miners 35-16 in an afternoon game at James H. “Buck” Harless Stadium.
Wheeling Central jumped out to a 35-0 lead by halftime and cruised to the victory.
WCC scored first at the 7:38 mark of the first quarter as quarterback C.J. Burch squeezed in on a 3-yard run. Alexander Cottrell’s kick made it 7-0.
Mingo Central stalled on another offensive drive, which found them on their own 5-yard line. However, Alex Lee boomed the punt from his own end zone and got a great roll for a 65-yard punt to give the Miners some breathing room as the second quarter came to a close.
Wheeling Central wasn’t affected and quickly moved the football down field.
The second quarter belonged to the Maroon Knights. With 11:09 left, freshman Jeff Gwynn hit pay-dirt from 3-yards out. Cottrell kicked the PAT for a 14-0 lead.
A Wheeling Central interception by Mike Pleva led to another TD by the visitors from the northern panhandle.
With 8:35 left in the first half, Burch connected with Cottrell on a 34- yard pass for another Maroon Knight TD. The kick made it 21-0.
WCC got another touchdown pass with 1:05 left in the half as Burch hooked up with Braxton Nolte. Cottrell’s kick made it 28-0.
Mingo Central attempted to get a score with just a minute left in the first half.
Lee got the best gain of the first half for the Miners on a 40 yard run to give MCHS good field position on the WCC 21-yard line.
But two incomplete passes were followed by two personal foul penalties, which had the Miners needing 40 yards for a first down. Then on the next shotgun snap, the ball was fumbled and Wheeling Central took over with excellent field position.
With just 16 seconds left in the second quarter, Burch hit Ben Deplaga on a slant over the middle and he found his way to the end zone for a 40-yard TD pass. Cottrell booted the extra point to give the visitors a commanding 35-0 lead.
Mingo’s Joe May, the team’s leading offensive weapon, was injured on the final play of the first half. He went down hard on what appeared to be a whiplash injury to his neck. He did not play in the second half.
Neither team scored in the third quarter. However, Mingo Central saw a glimpse of the future as a couple of younger players scored late touchdowns.
Both teams used a lot of their roster in the second half.
Sophomore Chase Justice scored on a 4-yard run. Matt Lester connected with Lee for the 2-point conversion to make it 35-8.
Then with 1:32 left in the game, freshman Deonte Joplin sliced through the WCC defense for an 11-yard TD run. Lester hit Joplin on a screen for the conversion to make it 35-16.
Justice led Mingo Central in rushing carrying the ball 10 times for 76 yards. May finished the day with only 12 yards on five tries as the Wheeling Central defense bottled him up.
May did had 2-of-2 passing for 41 yards from the Wildcat formation. Lester was 8-of-24 for 132 yards and two interceptions. Fullback Joe Hall had four catches for 41 for MCHS, while Lee caught three for 53 yards and May a couple for 17 yards.
Mingo Central ended the day with 311 total yards on offense, 138 on the ground and 173 through the air.
Wheeling Central’s Burch had an outstanding day completing 6-of-11 passes for three touchdowns on only 71 yards. He also rushed 15 times for 58 yards and a score.
Gwynn had three carries for 75 yards and a TD. Wheeling Central’s defense did an outstanding job led by defensive end Coty Knecht, who was in the Miner’s backfield all day.
The day began with Mingo Central’s administration and student body honoring Buck Harless, who donated most of the money to build the new football complex. Harless was given a painting and a football signed by the team.
The ceremony was held on the 50-yard line with Principal Deborah Harris serving as the emcee. Harless had his best friend Dusty, his faithful German Sheppard, by his side. He addressed the crowd and thanked them. Harless also turned 93 years old. Several students were on the field and released 93 blue, white and black balloons (the school’s colors) into the bright afternoon sunshine.
Mingo Central is now 4-3 on the season and will travel to Logan this Friday night. Their final two games will be with Nicholas County on the road and with Herbert Hoover at home. They need at least two wins in the final three games to have a chance to make the Class AA playoffs. A win over Logan would give them Triple A points in the SSAC rankings, while the final two games are with Class 2A opponents.
Wheeling Central came into the game 4-3 ranked No. 16 in Class A. They will surely move up into the top 16. The win certainly helped their playoff chances.
Score by quarters:
WCC … 7 28 0 0 – 35
MC …. 0 0 0 16 - 16