WHEELING — To simply call Jacob Rine a game manager is perhaps a disservice to his skills. Because the smallish senior managed to save the biggest game of his career for the biggest stage.
Rine, thrust into the starting quarterback role for Wheeling Central seven games ago, threw for four touchdowns Saturday night, leading his team to a 38-21 victory against Doddridge County in the Class A title game at Wheeling Island Stadium.
It marked the third straight championship for the Maroon Knights (10-4), who entered the playoffs as the No. 10 seed, and was the 12th crown overall for the program.
Rine helped Central on its improbable playoff run when he took over under center because of a torn ACL to three-year starter and All-Stater Curtis McGhee III.
On Saturday, he completed 13 of 18 passes for 214 yards with no interceptions or sacks and also ran nine times for 83 yards.
“He about 5-5,’’ said Central coach Mike Young, “but he’s got a heart so big, it makes him 6-5. I’m so proud of him. He played his heart out tonight.’’
Doddridge County (13-1), the No. 1 seed, was within 24-14 late in the third quarter, but Rine threw back-to-back TD passes to Jalen Creighton to break it open for good.
Rine had modest season stats coming into the title game, 690 yards passing and nine TDs and just 71 yards and one TD on the ground. But he saved his best for last.
“I’ve been around football all my life,’’ Rine said. “I’ve been coming to Central practices since I was 5 because my dad’s a coach. I feel like I’m smart when it comes to [managing the game].
“Obviously my teammates were able to help me do that. It’s easier to manage the game when you go out and play hard and when you have guys like that making plays. And the offensive line was unbelievable, playing so hard through the entire year.’’
Central had relied on its defense to capture three straight road playoff wins, which included dumping No. 2 seed Ritchie County and No. 3 Pendleton County and earning a last-second win at No. 7 Tolsia in the first round. The Knights gave up a total of three touchdowns in those three games.
But they needed Rine and the offense to deliver on Saturday, especially going up against Doddridge tailback Hunter America, the 2018 Curt Warner Award winner as the top running back in West Virginia.
America carried 19 times for 126 yards on Saturday and threw a 30-yard scoring pass to Griffin Devericks. America, who was selected as his team’s MVP in a media vote, went over 6,000 career rushing yards in the game.
Rine was picked as the Knights’ MVP. Besides his passing and rushing, he was 5 of 5 on extra points and booted a 25-yard field goal. He wasn’t sure why he chose the title game for his coming-out party.
“I’d say that definitely [this was my best game],’’ he said. “It’s just hard I guess to put into words the feeling I have right now. I don’t know how I was able to go out there and do what I did. But obviously thanks to God for being able to instill that talent in me tonight. All thanks goes to Him and my teammates and coaches, for sure.’’
Jordan Waterhouse led Central on the ground with 90 yards and one TD on 24 carries and Creighton caught four passes for 77 yards. Vinny High led the Knights’ defense with eight tackles, several of them wrapping up America for little or no gain.
Central took a 21-7 lead at halftime as Waterhouse scored on a 5-yard run and Rine threw for a pair of touchdowns, 17 yards to Payton Marling, who made a nifty leaping catch in the end zone, and 6 yards to running back Adam Murray with 25 seconds left in the first half.
“That was tough to give up that score before the half,’’ said Bulldogs coach Bobby Burnside. “We were trying to get out of a hole and get into the half.”
For the Bulldogs, Dylan Knight tallied on a 3-yard second quarter rush. America carried 10 times for 44 yards on that possession.
The Maroon Knights bumped it to 24-7 on their first possession of the third quarter, getting a 25-yard field goal from Rine.