Yellowjackets fall in Wheeling
Wheeling Central too much for Williamstown
WHEELING, W.Va. — Mistakes doomed the Yellowjackets in a 44-15 Class A state championship loss to Wheeling Central Saturday night at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Terry Smith stated earlier in the week his team needed a mistake-free game for a fighting chance to hoist the championship trophy against the largely dominant in 2018 Maroon Knights.
The Yellowjackets did not get it.
Mike Young’s squad scored a safety on a blocked punt, gained a first down on a roughing the punter call, pulled off a 34-yard gain on an un-designed bad-snap fake punt leading to a score, then converted one of the Yellowjackets’ three interceptions into seven points.
Smith was less than pleased with all the miscues but talked about the special teams gaffs.
“We practice special teams, but it didn’t look like it in the first half,” he said.
Caden Tallman’s blocked punt off Vinny Mangino’s facemask with 10:50 remaining in the second quarter esentially led to eight points. Mangino scored on a 1-yard touchdown rumble two plays after the free kick.
Mangino’s scoring rush set the ‘Jackets in a 16-point hole with 10:29 left until halftime. Junior Donathan Taylor, the Yellowjackets’ MVP, closed the gap to 10 points at the 6:56 mark before a Nick Bondi catch on the conversion from Carter Haynes brought the deficit to eight.
Taylor finished the game with 208 yards on 28 carries with a rushing touchdown.
Both MVP’s played large roles in the victory.
Curtis McGhee III, Central’s rewarded player, finished with more than 100 yards rushing and passing with a touchdown in each category.
McGhee’s only scoring connection, a 31-yard touchdown pass on an Anthony Robbins’ lunge across the goal line, as time ran out in the first half proved the back breaker. A score set up by Jalen Creighton’s nice pick in tight coverage at the Jackets’ 45-yard line.
The play was especially tough swallow as Mason Deem appeared in position for an interception on the high ball. Robbins, however, used his 6-foot-4 build as a shield during his reception.
“We always say next man up and these kids stepped up right before the half,” said Young of the Knights big plays before halftime.
“We did have our opportunities in the first half,” said Smith. “But about the third quarter it was really over when we were down so much at halftime.”
Though the Yellowjackets recovered those points 11 plays into the second half, Adam Murray answered back eight plays later. Last year’s Huff Award winner, as the state’s best defensive player, got in on the scoring fun on his third run of the drive from 2 yards out with 2:49 remaining in the third.
Smith and company largely abandoned the passing game after Murray’s score despite the large deficit.
“We just didn’t think we would have enough time to throw,” said Smith. “Donathan ran the ball real well. We just didn’t think we had enough time and we could hold them out (of the end zone). We wanted to take some time off the clock. We thought we were getting some creases and we thought if we run the ball we are better at it.
“Our guys kept playing for the most part. “It is frustrating. I love seeing the passion but it is tough seeing them (the players) with tears in their eyes. If you see that it means everyone cares good or bad.”
Smith thanked the seniors for their leadership all season long as Country Roads blared in the background.
“The seniors leadership is what we are going to miss a lot,” he said. “We have enough juniors who can be leaders but the senior leadership this year was just tremendous.”