WHEELING -The Class A state championship game was like the parting of the Red Sea. Only the Williamstown uniforms were white.
Wheeling Central tailback Gino Bianconi enjoyed a game of biblical proportions and set several records while leading the top-ranked Maroon Knights to a 35-21 victory over the Yellowjackets Saturday night at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Bianconi dissected a Williamstown defense which entered the contest allowing just an average of 85 yards rushing per game and finished with 355 yards on 39 carries and five touchdowns. Bianconi shattered the old record of 251 yards rushing.
Photos by Jeff Baughan
Wheeling Central’s Gino Bianconi displays the form he used to set the all-time state championship rushing record in Saturday’s 35-21 win over Williamstown in the Class A?title contest. Bianconi scored all five of his team’s touchdowns and accounted for 355 yards.
"Gino knew this was his chance to shine and, boy, he was glaring out there tonight," Wheeling Central head coach Mike Young said.
Williamstown, which fell behind by 21 points at halftime, ends the campaign at 13-1. Wheeling Central (13-1) continued to have the Yellowjackets' number in the state-title game knocking them off for the fourth time in four tries in the new millennium.
"The kids played so hard, but it didn't turn out right," Williamstown head coach Terry Smith said. "There's no excuses, they beat us. We just couldn't slow (Bianconi) down. They blocked us too well. Whatever we tried to do, whether it was move a guy here or there they were too fast."
Class A state championship
At Wheeling Island Stadium
Wheeling Central 35, Williamstown 21
Williamstown (13-1) 0 7 7 7 - 21
Wheeling Central (13-1) 14 14 0 7 - 35
WC: Gino Bianconi 18 run (Bradley Cottrell kick), 9:47, 1st
WC: Bianconi 27 run (Cottrell kick), 4:07, 1st
WC: Bianconi 19 run (Cottrell kick), 8:46, 2nd
Will: Trey King 1 run (Garrett Butler kick), 7:22, 2nd
WC: Bianconi 21 run (Cottrell kick), 3:10, 2nd
Will: King 2 run (Butler kick), 6:55, 3rd
WC: Bianconi 1 run (Cottrell kick), 10:32, 4th
Will: Jake Tracewell 1 run (Butler kick), 4:30, 4th
Williamstown: First downs: 20. Rushing yards: 32-145. Passing yards: 72. Total yards: 217. Passing: 6-11-0. Fumbles-lost: 1-1. Punts: 4-30.5. Penalties: 4-55.
Wheeling Central: First downs: 35. Rushing yards: 65-534. Passing yards: 0. Total yards: 534. Passing: 0-2-0. Fumbles-lost: 2-2. Punts: 1-0.0. Penalties: 8-99.
Williamstown: Rushing: Trey King 24-133, Mike Adams 5-15, Jake Tracewell 3-(minus-3). Passing: Tracewell 6-11-0, 72 yards. Receiving: Brandon Yost 3-40, Aaron Jones 1-23, Mike Adams 1-5, Ben Amos 1-4.
Wheeling Central: Rushing: Gino Bianconi 39-355, Erik Gompers 7-65, Andrew Keane 5-45, Christopher Burch 5-42. Passing: Parker Henry 0-2-0.
Not only were Bianconi's rushing and TD totals state records for a championship game in any of the three classes, but the Maroon Knights also punished Williamstown's defense for 534 yards as a team.
"Bianconi was real fast, and I don't know how you simulate that," Smith continued. "We slowed their quarterback a little bit, but (Bianconi) had all those yards."
Wheeling Central set the tone from the outset needing just five plays to drive 91 yards. Bianconi capped the series with an 18-yard touchdown run and placekicker Bradley Cottrell added the point-after to put the Maroon Knights in front 7-0 at the 9:47 mark of the first quarter.
After a three-and-out from Williamstown, Wheeling Central's second offensive series also penetrated the red zone, but stalled when Bianconi and quarterback Parker Henry had difficulty with the exchange on the handoff.
The ball hit the ground and Williamstown's Jake Tracewell recovered the fumble at his own 15-yard line.
Once again, Williamstown failed to produce a sustained drive and punted without registering a first down.
Back came the Maroon Knights, who needed just two plays to gain 48 yards, including Bianconi's 27-yard TD run. Barely eight minutes into the game and the Wheeling Central lead had increased to 14-0.
The Yellowjackets finally got the offense going late in the first quarter and moved downfield to the Wheeling Central 38, but running back Trey King was denied for no gain on third-and-6.
After the third Williamstown punt of the half, Wheeling Central followed the same script, covering 84 yards in eight plays with Bianconi reaching the end zone virtually untouched from 19 yards out.
King finally broke free for a long gainer on the ensuing possession. With Avery Goff providing the lead block downfield, King raced 55 yards to leave the ball sitting at the Wheeling Central 9.
Following a 19-yard completion from Alex Tracewell to Brandon Yost on second down, King got the call again for a 1-yard TD run.
Garret Butler's extra-point conversion cut the deficit to 21-7 with 7:22 remaining before intermission.
Wheeling Central continued its surge when Bianconi carried six times for 59 yards on the next Maroon Knight offensive series. The senior capped the drive with his fourth TD of the half this time from 21 yards. At the 3:10 mark, Wheeling Central led 28-7.
"The atmosphere was still good in the locker room at halftime we talked about taking one play at a time," Smith said.
Williamstown kept battling and on the opening drive of the second half, the Yellowjackets manufactured a 12-play, 55-yard drive which resulted in King's 2-yard TD run. King finished the game with 133 yards rushing on 24 attempts and was named Williamstown's Samuel Mumley Player of the Game.
Wheeling Central then answered with what would be its final score of the night when Bianconi walked into the end zone from a yard out at the 10:32 mark of the fourth quarter. The drive chewed seven minutes off the clock.
"That offensive line those holes were great," said Bianconi, who received the Samuel Mumley Player of the Game award for Wheeling Central. "They should get all the rewards. I shouldn't be standing here and giving this speech. They should."
There was still life in the Williamstown program as senior Aaron Jones blocked a Wheeling Central punt, which was recovered by Austin Eddy at the Maroon Knight 1 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the quarter. The Yellowjackets needed just one play to punch the ball into the end zone as Tracewell scored on the quarterback keeper.
Trailing 35-21, Williamstown tried an onside kick and it nearly worked to perfection before the ball bounced out of bounds without a Wheeling Central player touching it. The Maroon Knights then ran out the remaining time on the clock for the program's ninth state title.
"We tried we just have to go back to the drawing board and work hard," Smith said. "That's the only answer I have and that is to work harder."