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Plenty is on the line when Wheeling Central faces Williamstown

Photo by Neal Smith Williamstown’s Leewood Molessa (54), Josh Ingram (66) and Nick Bower (55) join in on a tackle of Tyler Consolidated receiver David Throckmorton during a regular-season game. The Yellowjacket trio and the team travels for a matchup with Wheeling Central this Friday.

WILLIAMSTOWN — Almost an entire season went by without Class A giants Wheeling Central and Williamstown meeting in a football game.

Almost.

But not quite.

The Maroon Knights and Yellowjackets will meet in a matchup with huge playoff implications at 7 p.m. Friday on the campus at West Liberty University. Mike Young’s three-time defending state champions require a win to keep alive its hopes of an attempt at four straight titles. Williamstown, meanwhile, can earn the praise of the rest of the classification by taking away their rival’s opportunity to be the last team standing once again in December at Wheeling Island Stadium. Along the way, the Yellowjackets could solidify their footing among the top of the Class A postseason hierarchy, too.

But first, the Yellowjackets have to make good on that promise of potentially keeping the Maroon Knights home in late November. And Williamstown head coach Chris Beck says his team and he are ready for the showdown. “We are definitely excited for the opportunity to go up there. The kids are looking forward to the challenge and we want to try and play football again,” he said.

His response is understandable.

Both teams missed out on opponents last week.

Williamstown couldn’t find a game as no other gold county team would play them, while Wheeling Central saw its game with Madonna cancelled after the Blue Dons administration discovered several Knight players had tested positive for COVID-19. The Yellowjackets almost couldn’t play again this week as Doddridge County still is designated orange. Central lost its opponent after Ohio group St. Clairsville’s victory over Warren moved it on in the Buckeye State playoffs.

And so here we are.

Two of the premier teams in the state are back at it once again. “I think both teams aren’t afraid of a challenge,” Beck said. Indeed, they are not. Each group already facing Ohio power Fort Frye, Central also led Class AAA Parkersburg High at halftime, earlier this season means both have had time to sure up any weaknesses and Young thinks that makes both teams more prepared for this game.

Now it is all about executing well, and he believes his team will come out strong as it still hopes to make the playoffs.

“Expectations are always huge at Wheeling Central and you certainly don’t want to be those kids who cause the recent run of success not to continue. I don’t really think I have to say anything about that though. We have a very focused group of young men who want to play and keep getting even better,” he said.

Young knows the kind of team his group faces this week.

“They are very well balanced and run the ball real well,” Young said. “Their offensive line is good and defensively they are very aggressive. They come off the ball well and are a typical Williamstown team. They are well coached and fundamentally strong.”

All of this is well and good for Beck, but the Yellowjacket head coach offered just as much praise for the Knights.

Payton Marling and Jordan Waterhouse offer an immense challenge for his defense, he said. “No. 7 and No. 3 jump off the film and right at you. Their quarterback is a big kid and defensively they are just as impressive with Vinnie High,” Beck said. “They do a great job of getting Marling and Waterhouse the ball and you can’t focus completely on either of them. Plus, they are typically sound up front.”

Beck won’t give away the game plan, but did go on record saying he hopes for a fast start despite the unexpected off week.

“I would like to be 100 percent as soon as we get on the field. Sometimes there can be some rust but hoepfully what we did at practice will help. We better be ready to go as this week is an unbelievable challenge.

“People can avoid these guys all they want but you have to beat them sometime and we are in a unique position to see where we stack up against one of the top teams in Class A,” Beck said. “Win or lose I am confident we are going to get better after this week. We will be a better team on Saturday than we were before the game on Friday.”

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