HUNTINGTON — It’s been an interesting week for Wheeling Park coach Chris Daugherty.
Wheeling Park was originally slated to visit University but due to Monongalia County still being in the red on the current COVID-19 map, the Hawks cannot be in action this week.
With Ohio County’s status also recently in question on the map, Daugherty wasn’t certain his Patriots would have a game.
After getting the all-clear, things fell into place with Friday’s new opponent, Huntington.
“It’s been tough,” Daugherty said. “With all the changes, we’ve known for a while that we would not be playing University, so we started to talk to some different teams.
However, we thought we (Ohio County) were turning orange and we knew if that happened it wouldn’t be good for the team we would have made plans with.
“Thankfully, we fell back to yellow and at that point Huntington needed a game and so did we. We were going to be on the road anyway so it’s only fair.
“I’m just excited that our kids get to play.”
Wheeling Park’s last time facing Huntington came in the 2013 state semifinal where the Highlanders emerged victorious.
“That was a game we wish we could have back,” Daugherty said. “We had some injuries. Both teams were good football teams but if we were healthy that might have been us in the state championship.
“It’s been a while since we’ve played them but they are a great program — one of the strongest in West Virginia.”
Wheeling Park got back on track last week in a big way after a last-minute 26-21 loss to St. Clairsville the week before.
The Patriots steamrolled past Hedgesville 49-0 to pull its record to an even 1-1 heading into Friday’s game at Huntington.
First-year starting quarterback Beau Heller threw for two touchdowns and ran for one in the win.
“There is no doubt I saw a different level of confidence between Week 1 and Week 2 from Heller,” Daugherty said. “St. Clairsville gave us three or four different looks and he had to adjust and I thought he did a nice job. That made him a better quarterback.
“He only had two incompletions against Hedgesville. He definitely looked good.”
In the win, Carson Namack hauled in a TD pass, Stevie Mitchell ran for a pair of scores, Torrence Walker dashed in for one and Shaheed Jackson scored on a 42-yard interception return.
Huntington, however, comes into Friday’s game sitting at 0-2 after a 21-9 setback to Hurricane and a 35-7 loss last week to Cabell Midland.
Despite the loss, Daugherty knows Huntington brings plenty of talent to the field.
“They always have skill and they always have size,” Daugherty said of the Highlanders. “Their defense is going to run a 4-3 at us. They are always physical and they fly to the ball. They have a handful of athletes and good linebackers.
“They’ve been one of the stronger teams in the state the last 10 years or so.”
Devin Jackson showcased that athleticism last week for Huntington, scoring the team’s lone touchdown with a 79-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
After throwing for 201 yards in the opener against Hurricane, Huntington sophomore QB Gavin Lochow and the Highlanders’ offense was held to only 84 total yards last week.
Daugherty believes that slowing him down will be the key again this week.
“They have a very athletic quarterback,” Daugherty said. “He can run it and throw it. We are going to have to contain him for sure and try to limit the big plays. We need to make them drive the field and make them run 15-20 plays to score.
“Offensively, we can’t make mistakes. We need to play clean football. When we do that we can be pretty good.”
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