WHEELING, W.Va. — If the atmosphere inside Wheeling Island Stadium Wednesday night was any indication, the stands should be absolute pandemonium when Wheeling Park High School’s football team takes the field for Saturday’s Class AAA state championship bout against Capital.
Hundreds of students, parents and other Patriots faithful turned out at the stadium for a pep rally to get ready for the big game, one of three that will make up the West Virginia Super Six championships Friday and Saturday. Principal Amy Minch said the school decided to host a public pep rally in hopes of giving as many people as possible a chance to participate in the spirited event.
“We are celebrating our successful football season as we will be playing for the state championship here at the Super Six … so the parents and the community all wanted to get together to celebrate with the boys and wish them good luck on Saturday,” Minch said. “The community has been very supportive. Everybody has been behind us, so it gives them an opportunity to join in with us and celebrate this week.”
After introducing the players, coaches, cheerleaders and band, retired Wheeling Park teacher Mark Delbrugge – who also served as the equipment manager for the 1991 Patriots team that was state runner-up – told the crowd that it is quite fitting Wheeling Park is once again matched up with Capital, the same school they played against that year. He said while there are not a lot of good memories from that game, they would send this year’s squad off with a different outcome.
“This is a special group … maybe one of the most athletic classes to ever come through Wheeling Park High School, and they are going to bring us home a state championship on Saturday,” Delbrugge said after introducing the team’s senior players.
Wheeling Park head coach Chris Daugherty said he has been overwhelmed with the outpouring of community support for the team in advance of this weekend’s championship game.
“You expect coaches, you expect the kids to be excited about a state championship game, and they are. … I probably didn’t expect how excited Wheeling would get – it’s really neat,” Daugherty said, adding he has received countless emails and social media posts this week from excited parents, fans and alumni who have moved away from the valley and are returning for Saturday’s game.
“It’s just neat to see the city get behind this team and we thought it was proper to maybe put together a community pep rally instead of one during seventh and eighth periods at the school,” he added.
Daugherty thanked everybody who made the pep rally possible, including those in attendance for their support throughout the entire season.
“For everyone that’s here tonight – you’re the group of people that have been with us from the beginning,” Daugherty said.
Seniors Clay McDonald and Savion Johnson took a few minutes at the conclusion of the event to express their appreciation for the community’s support, before the team huddled together at the center of the field for a final victory chant.