There are people around the Ohio Valley who just aren't sold on this Wheeling Central football team.
Shadyside head coach Mark Holenka is certainly not one of those people.
The Tigers' fourth-year boss realizes how much the Maroon Knights lost to graduation from 2011 and that returning quarterback Parker Henry is lost for the season.
SHADYSIDE running back Eric Howell is one of several options in the Tigers’ backfield. The Tigers are preparing to face perennial West Virginia small-school power Wheeling Central Friday at Fleming Field.
But, none of that matters to him.
"People just don't realize how good they are," Holenka pointed out. "When I watch them on tape, I find myself saying, 'oh geeze. Wow! They're pretty good.'"
That's the respect the Maroon Knights have earned and the fact their players have risen to the challenge despite the injury problems they've faced.
The two small-school powers will renew their budding rivalry Friday night at Fleming Field as Shadyside looks to improve to 7-0, while the Knights seek their fifth win in seven tries.
"We've got a battle on our hands this week, there's no doubt about that," said Central head coach Mike Young. "Shadyside is one of the best-coached teams in the Ohio Valley. They do an excellent job of preparing and putting together a gameplan. Then their kids go out and execute it well."
Shadyside is coming off a convincing victory against Beallsville, while the Knights ran away from Allderdice, Pa.
Holenka, who runs the Tigers' defense, is trying to scheme up a plan to slow down the Knights' spinner series offense, which focuses on the run and uses a lot of deception.
"Wheeling Central does what it does extremely well," Holenka said. "We have to play well. We have to find the ball, read our keys well and play disciplined football."
The Knights were sent into a state of flux after their second scrimmage when Henry went down with a knee injury. However, C.J. Burch has stepped in and done an admirable job orchestrating the sophisticated Knights' attack.
"I think any team would miss some beats without a kid like Parker Henry," Holenka said. "Plus, they could use Burch elsewhere, but he's really stepped up and done a great job."
In last week's win against Allderdice, Burch ran for 195 yards and three touchdowns.
Braxton Nolte and Joey John are also key playmakers for the Maroon Knights. John caught a touchdown last week.
"We're getting better each week and building confidence," Young said. "We're obviously more of a running team, but if teams put nine in the box, we're able to throw it well enough to keep people honest."
The Tigers' defense has been stout all season with the likes of Chase Kinemond, Austin Dorris, Alex Quinn, Ian Baker and Cody Hudson leading the way.
"Central's passing game is proficient because their running game is so good," Holenka said. "They set up the pass through the run, whereas, Beallsville (last week) used the pass to set up the run, so we've got to be careful of coming up to play run at the expense of blowing a coverage."
The Tigers' offense has been balanced with a bevy of playmakers getting involved.
Kinemond leads the attack at the quarterback spot. He's passed for 590 yards and 12 touchdowns, while tossing just three interceptions. He's also ran for 299 yards and three scores.
Senior Brooks Ramsey is the Tigers' leading rusher with 311 yards and a touchdown. Chris Littell has been a valuable contributor as well on the ground with 225 yards and five touchdowns.
Dorris and Hudson are the top pass catchers with 16 and 15 receptions, respectively. Hudson has eight touchdowns.
"We've got to be able to take away the long pass and run," Young said.
"Shadyside does a nice job with what they do and they're extremely balanced."
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.