Entering Saturday, Moorefield had not lost to a Class A team all year. All three of the Yellowjackets’ losses in the regular season were against Class AA programs, but that changed Saturday afternoon when Wheeling Central defeated Moorefield 35-7 at Wheeling Island Stadium in the first round of the West Virginia playoffs.
The Maroon Knights (8-3) held Moorefield’s (7-4) power running game to just 60 yards on 34 carries and forced three turnovers on their way to victory.
“I’m really proud of how hard our kids played,” Central coach Mike Young said. “That’s a very physical team, they’re definitely a good football team. I’m awful proud of our kids, it’s just a great win today.”
The Knights started hot, as their first play from scrimmage was a play-action pass that quarterback Payton Hildebrand completed to Jayvon Miller for a 51-yard touchdown. Hildebrand made his first playoff start in place of an injured Michael Toepfer and completed 4-of-11 passes for 94 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
“I’m proud of how he handled the pressure of stepping in for Michael and doing a tremendous job,” Young said of his signal-caller. “He’s been doing the back and forth all year and both are doing a heck of a job of keeping our kids together. We always say next man up, and that’s exactly what Payton did.”
Central found a lot of success on offense running wildcat plays with playmaker Lorenzo Ferrera at quarterback. A 20-yard run by Ferrera at the end of the first quarter set up Cole O’Neil for a six-yard touchdown that made it a 14-0 lead.
On the ensuing Moorefield possession Central
The Maroon Knights forced a punt that was blocked and picked up by Braxton Anderson, who ran it four yards into the endzone for another touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
“Our special teams were lights out,” Young said. “Coach (Phil) Pest does the special teams and he does a phenomenal job. Fundamentals are what made the difference today and our kids definitely rose to the occasion.”
Ferrera and O’Neil both scored rushing touchdowns in the third quarter to give
the Knights a 35-0 lead heading into the final frame. Ferrera finished the game with 94 rushing yards and a touchdown to go with 23 yards receiving.
“Lorenzo’s a threat whenever he touches the ball whether he’s catching it or taking it from the center,” Young said.
“Lorenzo’ll be the first one to tell you he ran for a lot of yardage but he’ll attribute it to the (offensive) line.”
Moorefield got on the board late when quarterback
Blake Funk hit Coleman Mongold for a 27-yard passing touchdown with five minutes left.
Nearly half of the Yellowjackets’ 60 total rushing yards came on Funk’s final two runs of the game,
which went for 21 and eight yards, respectively. Tailback Gavin Wolfe ran 15 times but gained just 28 yards. Isaiah Thomas picked off a Hildebrand pass in the second quarter.
For Central’s defense
Andrew Johnson and Riley Watkins both had a sack while Miller, Watkins and John Nickerson all had an interception.
Despite the convincing win, Wheeling Central did not play a perfect game. The Knights were flagged nine times for 75 yards,
including a blindside blocking foul that took a punt return touchdown off the board, and lost two fumbles.
Central advances to round two of the playoffs, where they will take on 16-seed Gilmer County next week. The Titans knocked off No. 1 seed Cameron in their first-round matchup on Saturday.