Gates Mills, oh. — Wheeling Park says he’s looking to start the 2022 football season 3-0. On Friday night, coach Chris Daugherty’s Patriots travel to Gilmore Academy for a battle against tough Villa Angela St. Joseph’s team has a 2-1 record this season, but has yet to pick up a point since losing in the opener.
Daugherty’s Red, White and Blue kicked off the season with a win over St. Clairsville last week at Wheeling Island Stadium before defeating Pittsburgh City School’s Brasher 42-12. Meanwhile, the Vikings, led by coach Jeff Rotsky, opened the 2021 Division III State with his 34-3 loss to his finalist Badin, with his two opponents combined in the final. We outperformed by a margin of 99-0. Last week he beat Youngstown East 49-0.
The VASJ are similarly promoted to Division III this season, entering the campaign with a young team of just eight seniors, but with a whopping 40 sophomores on the roster.
The Vikings already have two quality running backs, including sophomore Lamar “Bo” Jackson, who has offers from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh and Kentucky. Junior Amani Powell joins the backfield. Rotsky has his two quarterbacks, senior Kayin Cooper and his sophomore Kylan Steuball, with junior Andre Spinks being the top threat.
Defensive lineman Domnick Kinks is also considered a Division I contender for the VASJ.
“They are a good, well-coached football team that made it to the Ohio playoffs a season ago, and we hope to get back there again this year,” Daugherty said. “I think it will be very interesting to see how they play against them. They have good running backs and they love to play football. is a sophomore in , but it really does its job.
“We know they are a big force in the outside zone and we need to be with them for a long time, not just a little bit, to be successful.”
In fact, the Patriots had beaten the Bulls a week earlier, but a big-play offense and defensive effort that included two interceptions and two safety made the difference. Park also made a kickoff return for a touchdown on the night.
Quarterback Brett Phillips leads the offensive offense, completing 24 of 37 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns in two games, adding 41 yards and scoring on the ground last week. Sophomore speedster Jere Hawkins has nine catches and three runs for 170 yards, two of which came from 15 and 37 yards out last week.
Will James is another receiving threat with five grabs and one score for 43 yards. Zach Riddick leads the ground offense with 210 yards and he has 22 touchdowns with 2 touchdowns. The Patriots actually touched the ball five times after being forced to punt on his first two possessions last week, rattling for a touchdown.
“We have great play capacity from so many different kids,” Daugherty said. It may take me a few weeks to figure things out, but I feel there are a lot of different kids I can rely on when I need to make a big play.
Across the two games, Wheeling Park outscored their opponents by a margin of 84-26.
“I can’t talk enough about defense right now,” Daugherty added. “We knew we were missing some good linebackers and a safety. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how we would look on that side of the incoming ball. The first two weeks he can stop running.
“But there is no doubt that we will have more tests this week than the first two. They are fast and physical and should match our speed. It might be something that makes a team.