Many of the Wheeling players said that they weren't focused on the postseason heading into Friday night's game against Hersey.
But the postseason sure looks like whe Wildcats are headed, thanks in large part to a great night through the air by senior quarterback Jalen Dennis.
Dennis threw for 412 yards and 4 touchdowns, and a stifling Wildcats defense held the Huskies scorless until the final minutes in a 40-7 Mid-Suburban East victory.
In doing so, Wheeling notched its fifth win to become playoff-eligible.
"We weren't thinking about the playoffs, to be honest," said Wildcats lineman Freddie McLeod. "We just went out to play the best we could and fight for each other."
"All of us played together," said senior Frankie DeLuca. "We wanted to finish this, and both sides of the ball played great tonight."
Senior Johnny Kappel caught 12 balls for 251 yards for the Wildcats, while classmate TJ Best had 6 receptions, good for 111 yards.
"Discipline, and hitting," said Dennis of the Wheeling recipe for victory. "We came out here to hit people and execute our offense. This was Wheeling Wildcats football tonight."
It didn't take long for the Wildcats to hit the scoreboard, as a wide-open Kappel caught a 47-yard TD strike from Dennis just six minutes into the game.
Then, with Andrew Lara and the Wheeling defense shutting down visiting Hersey, the Wildcats (5-4, 4-1) scored 3 more times in the first half.
First Jason Shannon ran for a TD from 2 yards out, and minutes later Best made a juggling, circus catch in the corner of the end zone for another score.
A Kappel 8-yard touchdown catch made it 26-0 at halftime.
"Our skill players had to make plays tonight, and so did our offensive line," said Kappel. "We were able to do that."
An 8-yard scoring run from Dennis made the score 32-0 in the third quarter. Then Best caught another TD pass early in the 4th to make it 40-0.
A persistent Hersey team put a long drive together at the end, mostly on the strength of the play of wide receiver Caleb Gonzalez, who caught 9 passes from quarterback Owen Goldsberry.
Goldsberry scored the only Huskies touchdown on a late 5-yard run.
Dennis added 89 yards on the ground to go along with his aerial exploits.
"Last year, we finished at 4-5," said Kappel. "We didn't want that to happen again this year. We came out and fought to the last man and executed our game plan."