WHEELING - One yard.
Wheeling Central needed to gain three feet in order to tie Harrison Central at 14-all with 1:30 remaining in the fourth quarter. Harrison Central linebacker Tyler Rose instead shot the gap unblocked and dropped the Maroon Knights' quarterback, Jimmy Burch, for a one-yard loss.
"We had stayed in a four (man) front all night," Harrison Central head coach Justin Kropka said. "Our defensive coordinator and I decided we would change the front on them on fourth down. We wanted to give it a shot. And I think it confused their blocking scheme.
Photo courtesy Action Images
ON THE GROUND — Harrison Central quarterback Rashaen Mitchell runs for positive ardage during the first half of Friday’s 14-7 win over Wheeling Central at Wheeling Island Stadium.
"Tyler Rose is probably the best tackler on our team, and thet left the wrong guy unblocked."
Harrison Central emerged victorious, 14-7, Friday at Wheeling Island Stadium despite Burch - the Maroon Knights' backup quarterback - running for 221 yards against the Huskies' defense.
"I give Coach (Mike) Young and his staff a tremendous amount of credit," Kropka complimented. "I know what it's like to try and get a team up after you lose main guy - especially your quarterback. I wish (Parker Henry) would have played. The outcome may have been different.
Harrison Central 14, Wheeling Central 7
Harrison Central 0 7 0 7 - 14
Wheeling Central0 0 0 7 - 7
HC: R.Mitchell 1 run (Pecar kick)
WC: Burch 10 run (Cottrell kick)
HC: Hython 1 run (Pecar kick)
RUSHING: Harrison Central 38-278-2x (Hython 24-194-1, R.Mitchell 12-72-1, Maykowski 1-6, Olmstead 1-6); Wheeling Central 48-270-1 (Burch 28-221-1, Nolte 9-29, Naumann 6-16, John 4-4, Nixon 1-0).
PASSING: Harrison Central 6-12-58-0-1 (all by R.Mitchell); Wheeling Central 0-7-0-0 (all by Burch).
RECEIVING: Harrison Central (Olmstead 2-28; K.Mitchell 1-18; Hython 3-12)
"But, we knew. And when you know that, you can change a couple things up defensively."
Harrison Central didn't have much trouble moving the ball despite only scoring 14 points. Running back Maurtice Hython was the team's workhorse with 194 yards on 24 carries. He bulled his way through, over and around Maroon Knight defenders for every extra yard he could manage.
"That's what we expect from him," Kropka stated. "If you want to be a big time player, those are the types of games you have to play against a hard-nosed defense.
"What he has, you can't teach. And when you give him the ball, it usually works out for the Huskies."
The Huskies opened with a 42-yard drive, but an interception in the endzone forced Harrison Central's drive to stall.
Wheeling Central's offense initially sputtered. When the Maroon Knights finally seemed to break through with a 65-yard romp from Burch, it was called back due to holding. The penalty brought the ball back to Wheeling Central's 8-yard line. The Maroon Knights had to punt three plays later.
The Huskies finally took advantage on the ensuing drive. One play placed Kropka's team in scoring position.
Quarterback Rashaen Mitchell began a quarterback draw running to his left. He reversed field and glided to a 56-yard gain before being driven out of bounds at Wheeling Central's 10-yard line. Mitchell plunged into the endzone three plays later for the first score of the game. A Geoff Pecar extra point conversion gave Harrison Central a 7-0 lead that would last until the fourth quarter.
Mike Young's Maroon Knights started to mount a drive as the third quarter concluded. Wheeling Central's misdirection offense finally wore down the Huskies' defense. Burch and his offense started the drive at Wheeling Central's 40-yard line. The Maroon Knights finally reached the endzone for the first time this season after an 11-play drive. Burch carried the ball seven times for 64 yards during series of plays which was capped by a 10-yard scamper into the endzone.
Brad Cottrell's extra point was true, and Wheeling Central tied Harrison Central 7-7 with 9:09 remaining in the game.
Harrison Central's game clinching drive started after the ensuing kickoff. Three consecutive plays in the middle of the drive drew big chunks of yardage. Hython rumbled for 28 yards on a jet sweep. Nate Olmstead made a 19-yard reception near Wheeling Central's sideline. While a quarterback draw from the Mitchell put Harrison Central in the redzone.
Hython and Mitchell traded carries to get the ball to the 1-yard line. Hython took a handoff from and walked into the endzone untouched.
Wheeling Central's eighth drive ended with Rose's key tackle. But, the evening wasn't quite finished.
Hython burst through the line of scrimmage for 74 yards, starting at the Huskies 2-yard line, before being brought down by a Maroon Knight defender. It appeared Harrison Central drove the final nail in Wheeling Central's coffin. Except, Hython coughed up the football.
A minute remained on the clock, yet Wheeling Central didn't capitalize on the gift Hython provided. The Huskies had to hold their breath at the end, but Kropka and his squad left Wheeling Island Stadium 1-0 to start the season.
Weir is next in line for Harrison Central.
"Anytime you can play on the road - especially against a team the caliber of Wheeling Central - and pull out a win to open the season, that's big." Kropka grinned. "It starts your season on the right foot. We have bigger and better things planned for this year, but this was the first step."