By SHAWN RINE
WHEELING, W.Va. -- Geremy Paige's eyes lit up as though he had just seen an opposing runner breaking through the line of scrimmage. For perhaps the first time it was Paige that ended up being floored.
The Wheeling Park linebacker had a difficult time believing that he had been named the West Virginia Sports Writers Association's Huff Award winner, signifying the state's top defensive prep football player. Paige became the first Patriots player to win the honor and he easily outdistanced runner-up Mason Hodge, a junior two-way star for Wayne.
"Are you serious?" he asked. "Wow, that is awesome."
Unbeknownst to Paige, he had pretty much summed up not only his senior season, but a career that saw him lead the Patriots to the playoffs three times as their top tackler. When Park advanced to the W.Va. Class AAA semifinals in November for the first time since 1991, Paige registered 156 tackles, 12 sacks and recovered a pair of fumbles for a defense that was known for flying to the football.
"I'm so happy for him. A kid like him started preparing three years ago to be best defensive player in West Virginia," Wheeling Park coach Chris Daugherty said. "He has Division 2 offers coming in droves, but I still believe that if a big school gives him a chance, they will be really happy with him.
"They know they are getting a great kid with a great work ethic, who will be in the weight room every day at 6 a.m."
Known simply as "Gee," Paige at times seemed to know what the offense was going to do before it even broke the huddle. Whether it was stopping the run or covering receivers on bubble screens, Paige (5-foot-11, 220 pounds) continually ended plays.
"He finds the ball at 90 miles per hour and blows it up," Daugherty said. "Probably the best thing about it is, he's sideline to sideline."
That's a good trait to have when going to the next level, wherever that may be. Paige will have to play a lot more pass coverage than he did while at Wheeling Park.