Wheeling Park too much for Brooke on Wheeling Island
WHEELING — Wheeling Park’s football team returned for its first home game in over a month in a must-win game against rival Brooke on Friday, which proved to be the perfect storm.
The Patriots outgained the Bruins 293-32 in the first half and scored on five consecutive offensive drives enroute to a dominating 56-7 triumph over Brooke.
Park coach Chris Daugherty could sense his team’s energy from the get-go.
“We’ve only had one home game and we’re almost done with the season,” Daugherty said. “There was a certain excitement that I think our kids felt. They were so excited to get back in our house.”
Perhaps the fact that Daugherty and a large portion of his coaching staff also played in this rivalry added some fuel to the fire.
“This is an important week here and we talked about that,” Daugherty said. “A bunch of coaches on this staff played in the Park-Brooke game and none of us got wins. For a long time, we never won the Park-Brooke game, so it will always be an important week here.
“I’m glad our kids were ready to play.”
Park struck first on its second drive as running back Hunter Nixon trotted 40 yards for a score.
Then, following a bad punt by Brooke, Park took advantage of good field position as Brandon Mundy took a handoff and scampered 27 yards for six and a 14-0 advantage.
Moments later, Nixon capped a 68-yard march with a 20-yard jaunt to the end zone.
That’s when special teams began to haunt Brooke.
The Bruins fumbled the kickoff return, which was scooped up and taken for a touchdown by Park’s Christian Bryan to make it a 28-0 upperhand.
That was followed up by a blocked punt by Park’s Owen Tipton, which led to a 3-yard TD pass from Brett Phillips to Will James.
Park’s special teams weren’t done.
Erick Brothers got in on the action, too. The junior powered through the line of scrimmage, blocked a punt and raced 40 yards to paydirt to create a 42-0 cushion with 7:55 remaining in the half.
“I don’t think our special teams breakdowns would have made any difference in the outcome of the game but we have to get basic things like punting the ball and not fumbling on kickoff returns figured out,” Brooke coach Mac McLean said. “We can’t afford to do that. It’s frustrating.”
Daugherty gave his special teams and coaching staff credit for the success on the field.
“That’s a credit to coach Andy Seals and what he does,” Daugherty said. “Special teams stood out (Friday). We really got after it on special teams.”
To add to the nightmare first half for the Bruins, they fumbled on their next possession to give the Patriots the ball at Brooke’s 3.
It took Mundy one play to scamper in for Park’s fifth TD in 4:22.
After a scoreless third quarter, Park added a touchdown in the fourth from Jordan Bachie from 3 yards out and Brooke avoided the shoutout as backup quarterback Hunter Mozingo plowed in for a TD as time expired in the contest.
“I was happy with the way our JVs came in during the second half,” McLean said. “It was a strategic decision. When you’re down 49-0 at halftime, to think we’re going to score 51 unanswered points in the second half is pretty unrealistic. So, we reset the clock and gave them a whole half of experience, which they’ll carry into next year. That was the thought behind it and I think we did the right thing.”
Phillips threw for 134 yards on 11 of 18 passing, while Nixon paved the way in the rushing game with 91 yards on seven carries. Mundy added 76 yards on six touches, while James made five grabs for 50 yards.
“I was excited about our team effort,” Daugherty said. “Even at the end of the game when we subbed. Our older kids were rooting on our younger kids and that’s what creates a team.
“The younger kids went in and played hard, too.”
Brooke QB Braelyn Sperringer and running back Jace Campinelli were bottled up by Park’s ferocious defense.
Sperringer was held to 33 yards on 5 of 10 passing and Campinelli supplied 38 yards on 11 carries and two grabs for eight yards.
“You have to put one like this behind you,” McLean said. “That is a very good football team over there. I said that earlier in the week but they’ve played a schedule that nobody around here would want to play. They have weapons all over the place. They can throw the ball on you, they can run the ball on you, they are fast and physical on defense and on top of that, we helped them out.”