By Eric Little – Seven Ranges Radio
Many of the matchups this week don’t necessarily involve teams that would refer to each other as “arch rivals” – meaning one of the two or three teams everyone has scheduled that they mark on their calendars the second the schedule is released.
However, you have to like the fact that a fair number of these matchups involve schools that are very close to one another. That’s EXACTLY what late season football should look like, in my opinion. Here are this week’s games (All games scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday unless otherwise specified):
St. Marys (8-0) at Ravenswood (5-3)
The thing to like about this matchup is that both teams have very clear objectives to gain with a win on Friday night. For St. Marys, even though both teams left on their regular season schedule have winning records (Doddridge County being the other), this constitutes the toughest test left for the Blue Devils on the way to a perfect regular season.
Ravenswood is a tough Class AA squad and has won three of their last four games. Moreover, the Red Devils impressed many in their only loss during that stretch – a 10-point setback to Class AAA Point Pleasant. Ravenswood likely needs a split in their final two games (Ripley being their other remaining opponent) to qualify for the state playoffs.
Defeat St. Marys and collect all the points that come with a win against a team that has eight wins. Defeat Ripley and collect the bonus points associated with a win against a Class AAA program.
Take your pick, really. St. Marys looked focused and dominant in a 49-0 win over South Harrison last week. Noah Spitzer scored three touchdowns for the Blue Devils, David Gray scored two more with quarterback Michael Stout throwing one to each of them.
The St. Marys defense collected its first shutout win of the season against the Hawks by holding South Harrison to just 56 total yards of offense. Now, the Blue Devils have limited five of their eight opponents to ten points or less and no one has scored more than 20 on St. Marys this season.
Ravenswood rolled last week as well, advancing to 5-3 with a 42-21 win over Clay County. Devon Crews ran for three touchdowns while Heath Burgess threw for two and ran for a third for the Red Devils. The 21-point win was most impressive considering the fact that Clay County had almost twice as many first downs as Ravenswood (20-11) and gained 405 yards of total offense to Ravenswood’s 472.
The Red Devil defense may have been able to get away with allowing that many yards while still defeating Clay County. They’ll not be able to do that with St. Marys. For the Blue Devils, one of their biggest tasks will be to shake off the scrapes and bruises inflicted by South Harrison. Despite their record, the Hawks delivered some of the stiffest physical play the Blue Devils have dealt with all season long, especially on Stout.
Speaking of Stout, a large part of the St. Marys game plan last week revolved around getting Stout more comfortable in the passing game and using him in both bootleg and straight drop back situations. St. Marys has been very much a run-heavy team this season and in his first year as starting quarterback, Stout will need to have the tools to step up and help his team win big games in the clutch.
Credit head coach Jodi Mote for making that a priority against South Harrison, because this matchup with Ravenswood might be the first late-season example of a situation where Stout’s left arm may come into play to help the Blue Devils win the ballgame. This game can be heard locally on Lite Rock 93R (93.9 FM) and online at www.literock93R.com.
Ritchie County (5-3) at Williamstown (7-1)
In one of the more shocking outcomes of last weekend, Tyler Consolidated stepped up from Class A and spoiled Senior Night at Ritchie County High School by handing the Rebels a 20-14 loss.
After winning four straight, the Rebels have now dropped two of their last three games. This only adds intrigue to a matchup with huge playoff implications for each team. Despite the Class AA/Class A separation here, a win for Ritchie County would be a huge shot in the arm for a Rebels team that’s close to watching their season spiral away from them with only a trip to Grafton remaining after this week.
For Williamstown, the bonus points the Yellowjackets would receive by getting a win over an opponent from Class AA would boost Williamstown’s efforts to get in the coveted top-4 and lock up at least two home playoff games. The Yellowjackets got a gritty 16-13 win last Saturday night against Parkersburg Catholic. Williamstown got a receiving touchdown from Dakota Watson and a rushing score from Trace Hart on a night where they outgained the Crusaders only 255-236. The separation in this week’s matchup between the Yellowjackets and the Rebels comes in the running game.
The Yellowjackets have had the most problems this year defensively stopping the run. The Rebels have had the most problems offensively this year running the football. Ritchie County will need to find creative ways around the literal and figurative road block to pick up the win against the Yellowjackets. That will likely include a passing game that includes talented quarterback Alex Lipscomb and receiving threat Dylan Frye.
The Rebels often throw to Frye on bubble screen looks, which gets Frye the ball in open space quickly. Lipscomb is skilled enough, though, to make other reads and find other open receivers if Frye is blanketed. If the Yellowjackets can contain Frye while not giving up anything else on the backside of the bubble screen, they’ll likely be on their way to their eighth win. This game will air locally on V96.9 FM and online at www.v969radio.net.
Tyler Consolidated (4-4) at Valley Wetzel (3-5)
First-year Tyler Consolidated head coach Ryan Walton deserves a lion’s share of credit for the job he’s done to not allow his Silver Knights to get down on themselves after an 0-4 start to this season. In consecutive weeks, the Silver Knights lost to Williamstown, Doddridge County, Magnolia and St. Marys – all teams that are likely to finish with .500 records or better this season.
If the season ended today, three of those four teams would be headed to the playoffs while the fourth (Magnolia) would be on that list as well, were it not for some terrible breaks late in close games. Knowing his team had winnable games left, Walton got big efforts out of the Silver Knights to bring the team back to 3-4 heading into last week with a huge road test looming against Ritchie County.
The Silver Knights passed that test with a win that firmly places the program back on the Class A road map with a 20-14 upset win against the Rebels in Ritchie County. On top of that, the win firmly places Tyler Consolidated back in the discussion for a Class A playoff berth…an almost unheard of spot for a team that was 0-4 a month into the season.
Jacob Highley ran for two touchdowns for the Silver Knights but their biggest score of the night, and arguably their biggest play of the season, came in the fourth quarter when Jordan Baker connected with Swen Scheidemantel on a 40-yard pass play that provided the winning score against the Rebels.
If the Silver Knights can take care of business this week against Valley Wetzel – a team that has won just two games this season, with their third win coming via forfeit – it sets up a very intriguing matchup next week between Tyler Consolidated and Bishop Donahue that might literally be a battle between two teams fighting for the same playoff spot.
Gilmer County (5-3) at Parkersburg Catholic (6-3) (Saturday 7:30)
The Parkersburg Catholic Crusaders have dropped two straight at a really inopportune time to do so. After a 16-13 loss to Williamstown, the Crusaders need a win against Gilmer County – and perhaps a little help – to solidify a spot in the Top-16. In the loss, the Crusaders got touchdown runs from Payton Sturm and Nick Roedershimer and came very close to outgaining the Yellowjackets, falling short by just 19 yards in that category. Gilmer County comes into Stadium Field on Saturday night with a thing or two to prove themselves.
After a bye week, the Titans sit just outside the Top-16 with a remaining game against unbeaten Valley Fayette remaining after this week. Gilmer County must win at least one of these two, if not both, to crash the playoff dance. Though the Titans and Crusaders have similar records, their schedules aren’t even close to being on the same playing field. The combined record of Gilmer County’s opponents is just 16-50 and includes just one game against a team with a winning record.
That includes games against three winless teams and a one-win team. And the one team with a winning record (Doddridge County) almost has as many wins (seven) as the other seven teams on Gilmer County’s schedule (nine). Parkersburg Catholic, on the other hand, has played a tough Little Kanawha Conference schedule and has the bumps and bruises to prove it. Give the Crusaders the edge this weekend.
Wirt County (3-5) at Roane County (6-2)
Roane County bolstered its playoff hopes with a 43-33 win over Herbert Hoover. The Raiders rallied from a 27-21 deficit against the upset-minded Huskies thanks to a 22-point explosion in the fourth quarter. Luke Scott’s four touchdown runs led the way for the Raiders as part of Scott’s 155-yard ground effort. The concern for the Raiders from last week comes defensively.
Despite the fact Roane County picked up nine more first downs than Herbert Hoover (25-16), the Huskies outgained the Raiders 438-371. Wirt County began a three-game road stretch to finish their season with a 39-13 win at winless Calhoun County. Wes Valentine ran for two touchdowns and Justin Joy ran for one and caught another for Wirt County in the win.
Don’t let their poor record fool you…the Tigers are a team MORE than capable of playing spoiler and picking off a win against the Raiders this week in their own quest to break even this season. For a team that’ll watch their streak of playoff appearances end at four this season, these last two games for Wirt County ARE essentially their playoffs.
Expect the Tigers to put up another big effort in Spencer Friday night because there isn’t an ounce of quit in Jason Hickman’s team.
Miller, Ohio (2-7) at Wahama (7-1)
Wahama returns to action after a bye week to face a Miller Falcons team that’s playing out the string at this point. Miller has lost three straight, shut out in two of those losses by scores of 60-0 and 39-0, and has scored more than 20 points in a game just once this season.
To add insult to injury, Miller isn’t exactly playing a tough schedule either. The Falcons have played just four of their nine games against teams with winning records and three games against teams with two wins or fewer. For a fun game with your friends, try to guess how many points Wahama will score this week.
The White Falcons have topped 50 points three times and reached 60 twice. Get a few of your friends together and collect your guesses. But you gotta do it like The Price Is Right – closest to actual score without going over. Anything else and you’re doing it wrong.
Parkersburg South (2-6) at Wheeling Park (7-1)
Parkersburg South fought hard last week against Greenbrier East, but the Patriots allowed a touchdown run in the fourth quarter that sealed their fate last week in a 27-20 loss. Cody Smith ran for two touchdowns and Garrett Gilkeson ran for a third.
However, Greenbrier East outgained the Patriots by a whopping 493-144 margin. That defensive effort won’t put a dent in a Wheeling Park team that’s one of the best in the state. Those Patriots proved why they’re one of the best in the state with a dominant effort against Steubenville in a 42-22 win against Big Red.
Wheeling Park has scored points in bunches this season, scoring fewer than 30 just twice this season. They should have no trouble duplicating that success against a struggling Parkersburg South squad.
Parkersburg (2-6) at Riverside (1-8)
Ripley (2-6) at George Washington (7-1)
Clay County (2-6) at Calhoun County (0-9)
Paden City (3-5) at South Harrison (2-6)