By Eric Little, Seven Ranges Radio
The calendar says autumn begins on September 22nd, but as far as I’m concerned, the second a toe meets a football on a high school football gridiron is actually the moment the seasons change. It’s that time of year once again, but before you head out to your favorite team’s game this weekend, I implore you to remember something. The athletes you’re paying to see are teenagers, 15-18 years old.
High school sports are only a small portion of what’s on their plates on a daily basis. And regardless of who wins or loses, there is a tremendous amount of work and effort that goes into everything you see when you attend a high school football game.
From the players and coaches on the field, to the cheerleaders and marching bands, to the administrators and officials, to the parents and band boosters ready to hand you a cold drink and a hot dog at the concession stand, please remember that everyone involved has worked hard to make the entire spectacle possible. Show these people as much appreciation and respect as you can.
With that said, here are this week’s games in the Mid-Ohio Valley:
Warren (OH) at Parkersburg (7:30 Saturday at Don Drumm Stadium, Marietta, Ohio)
So much attention locally has been given to where the Big Reds will play their games this year, that relatively few people are paying attention to how they’ll play. First, the answer to the ‘where’ question. PHS will host Warren Local across the Ohio River on campus at Don Drumm Stadium – an artificial turf venue shared by Marietta (OH) High School and Division III Marietta College.
So, despite the fact that Parkersburg is the home team in this interstate battle, Warren Local is the team that will actually be playing in its home state. (Make sense? No? Don’t worry. A lot of people here really don’t understand why the game was taken out of city and state either).
A November inspection at Parkersburg’s on-campus Stadium Field turned up decay that couldn’t be overlooked and the facility was closed. A fundraising effort for renovations that will allow the home bleachers to be open this fall is crawling to the finish line. Workers are feverishly ordering materials and completing work with hopes that Parkersburg can host its September 20th home game against Capital on campus.
Now, to the ‘how’ aspect of the 2013 Big Reds. A 4-6 campaign a year ago led to the rarity of a November without Parkersburg in the playoffs. Head coach Don Reeves will simplify things on offense this year – expect to see Parkersburg rely on more Wing-T principles from the start. The Big Reds return quarterback Aaron Roberts and running back Chandler Hamilton – two players that succeed at their positions – so they’ve got that going for them offensively.
Defense could be a big issue for Parkersburg this year, as it’s been in the past 2-3 years, and a lack of experience up front could cause problems for the Big Reds on both sides of the ball.
In week one, the Big Reds face a talented Warren team under head coach Andy Schob, who is building a solid program. The Warriors have the potential to win anywhere from six to eight games this season, and will pose a stiff challenge for Parkersburg.
The stadium issues have placed a smoke screen for Parkersburg as it prepared for this season. Now, the Big Reds will have to rely on their experienced backfield if they want to rise to the occasion and defeat a pretty good football team in week one.
Parkersburg South at Ripley
Excitement is high on Parkersburg’s south side for new Patriots head coach Mike Eddy. After spending four seasons at Ohio’s Gallia Academy, Eddy returns to the West Virginia side of the river where he served as an assistant for five years at crosstown rival Parkersburg.
Eddy replaces Jon Bolen, who led the Patriots to the playoffs three times in his six seasons at South. However, a 6-4 record wasn’t enough to send Bolen back to the dance in his swan song. Another Bolen left the program after last year as well – one with perhaps even bigger repercussions to the program in 2013. Three-year starting quarterback Tyler Bolen – Jon’s son – graduated in May.
And one of the biggest problems facing Eddy in his search for a quarterback this year? Bolen took so many snaps in his three seasons as the No. 1 QB that Eddy has no one in his camp with varsity experience under center.
Eddy, though, won’t be the only head coach in this game coaching his first for his respective school. Dave Tennant comes to Ripley after a stint at Eastern (OH) High School. He’ll look to improve upon the 5-5 record turned in by his predecessor Jimmy Frashier last season.
Fayetteville at Wahama
The defending Class A champion White Falcons will open their title defense at home against Fayetteville. Known for the most part as a running team, Wahama proved in the fourth quarter of last year’s state championship game that the playbook contains many wrinkles and many options to throw the football when the game is on the line.
And though the White Falcons graduated the young man responsible for throwing the ball last year (Trenton Gibbs), they’ll feature a proven leader under center this year. Hunter Bradley, a transfer from Roane County, will start at quarterback for the White Falcons.
Wahama returns first-team all-state running back Kane Roush, who was named MVP of the state title game last year after he rushed for 170 yards and three touchdowns at Wheeling Island Stadium.
The impetus behind the performance of Roush, and the entire Wahama backfield, is an offensive line that’s among the best in the state. The White Falcons enter the season riding a 31-game regular season winning streak and are a favorite to make another trip back to the Super Six.
St. Marys at Ritchie County
This traditional season-opening rivalry has picked up intrigue once again in recent years, thanks to the re-emergence of the Ritchie County program under head coach Mike Dawson. In Dawson’s first year as head coach, the Rebels entered the playoffs for the first time in a decade as No. 16 seed. Last year, the Rebels earned a No. 8 seed and home game that comes with it.
Now in year three, Dawson wants to take things to an even higher level and compete with upper-echelon schools in Class AA, like Wayne, Keyser, Bridgeport, etc. He has returning skill position talent in Dylan Frye, Alex Lipscomb and Tyler Reed, which helps matters. But as Dawson looks across the field at his opponent on opening night, he’ll see a St. Marys Blue Devils ballclub with an arsenal of backfield options deeper than Miley Cyrus’ arsenal of suggestive dance moves.
Although the Blue Devils lost starting quarterback Andrew Cosper (more on that in a moment) and running back Derek Barnhart to graduation, expect St. Marys to be run-heavy in 2013 with plenty of quality backfield options.
Senior running backs David Gray and Noah Spitzer combined for more than 1,900 rushing yards last year and are plenty capable of carrying the mail this season. As for the quarterback nod? Expect that to go to junior Michael Stout, a multi-sport athlete that threw a five-inning perfect game for the Blue Devils during last year’s baseball sectionals.
Though St. Marys won’t throw the ball much this year, one of the biggest adjustments Stout’s receivers will have to face is that he is left-handed – which puts a different spin on every ball he fires.
This matchup is about as close to a toss-up as you’ll find. There are more than enough skill players on both sides of the ball to make this game one to watch. This matchup will air locally on Lite Rock 93R (93.9 FM) and online at www.literock93r.com.
Buffalo at Parkersburg Catholic (7:30 Saturday at Jackson Middle School)
One of the ancillary effects of Stadium Field’s closure is that the Parkersburg Catholic Crusaders also had to find a new home for 2013. They’ve settled at Jackson Middle School for the foreseeable future, and unlike the Big Reds, it’s not likely that Parkersburg Catholic will look to play at Stadium Field this season.
The Crusaders will face a tough challenge to open the season with playoff participant Buffalo providing the opening week opposition. In the first half of the season, Parkersburg Catholic will also face 2012 playoff teams in St. Marys and Wirt County. Though there’s a three-game road swing for the Crusaders after Saturday’s opener, Parkersburg Catholic does play six home games this year. If the Crusaders can survive the rough early stretch, they could make another appearance in the Class A playoffs.
Tyler Consolidated at Williamstown
Williamstown head coach Terry Smith enters this season two wins shy of 100 in his head coaching career, coming off of perhaps his finest head coaching effort in 2012. Late in October, the Yellowjackets were looking at a 3-4 record in week nine, in need of three straight wins to make another postseason appearance.
Even though they weren’t necessarily the prettiest wins, Williamstown got what it needed to get back to the postseason. Now, the Yellowjackets return a steady backfield trio in Jake Tracewell, Dakota Watson and Trace Hart. And, as you can imagine, expectations are high in Williamstown – just like always.
Excitement is abundant on the Tyler Consolidated sideline as well with first-year head coach Ryan Walton at the helm. The Silver Knights have been left out in the cold come playoff time the last few years and if they want to get back, they’ll have to overcome a perennially-rugged schedule that includes Williamstown, Magnolia and St. Marys within the first four weeks. This game will air locally on WXCR Radio (92.3 FM).
Valley Fayette at Wirt County
Wirt County head coach Jason Hickman has built a perennial playoff contender in Elizabeth. This year, in order to return, Hickman will have to replace three captains to graduation and a quarterback (Josh Trembly) that transferred to Parkersburg High School. Damian Rhodes will move under center for the Tigers this year, a key cog in the offense in past seasons as a running back/wide receiver. Jake Linville, Cody Ferguson and Wes Ferguson are all talented playmakers and will see the ball plenty for Hickman’s squad this season.
Three games at home to begin the season will be huge for the 2013 Tigers. The danger for Wirt County is a looming date with St. Marys in week two. The Tigers overcame a huge deficit to earn a win against the Blue Devils early in the regular season – the only regular season blemish for St. Marys a year ago – before the Blue Devils ended Wirt County’s season with a 40-14 loss in the playoffs.
Wirt County can’t look ahead to the battle with St. Marys and must get what could be a pivotal season in the Hickman regime off on the right foot with a win against Valley Fayette in Friday’s opener.
Roane County at Clay County
The Roane County Raiders have been a part of the Class AA playoff dance for six of the last seven seasons. This year, they’ll have to replace starting quarterback Hunter Bradley after he transferred to Wahama.
The Raiders will turn to junior Cody May to fill that role. May spent last year as a quarterback and a running back and has the confidence of not only his teammates, but also head coach Paul Burdette. May will have plenty of weapons on offense, most notably second-team all-stater Tyler King.
The Raiders open with a Clay County Panthers team that struggled last season. If May can settle into his new role comfortably, he shouldn’t have much trouble leading Roane County to a win in its 2013 lid-lifter.
Clay-Battelle at Paden City
For the past couple years, buzz in Paden City has been building about the emergence of Hayden Hizer. Now that he’s a freshman, Hizer will see the field early for a Wildcats program that fields a roster numbering in the 20’s, on a good day.
Hizer is expected to start somewhere in the offensive backfield and probably also at defensive back for Brent Croasmun’s squad. The Wildcats will face the always-tough Clay-Battelle Cee-Bees in week one. Clay-Battelle returns third-year quarterback Tristan Haught, author of more than 30 career touchdowns.
Gilmer County at Calhoun County