By Eric Little – Seven Ranges Radio
As is the case throughout football, rivalries are at their best when played at the end of the season. Because what’s to lose? Either one or both teams involved are having a strong season and the game takes on playoff implications. Or, neither team is having a good season and you still get a good game because of the desire to knock off a rival. Two of the best rivalries in the state will be contested this weekend. Here are this week’s games (All games scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday unless otherwise specified):
Parkersburg (3-6) at Parkersburg South (2-7)
This year’s Crosstown Showdown features two teams that have struggled this year, but in entirely different ways. Parkersburg’s issues crept up at the middle of the season with two excruciatingly close road losses to solid teams. First, a two-point loss on October 4th to South Charleston…then a one-point setback a week later at Woodrow Wilson. If the outcome if just one or two plays in both games is different, Parkersburg emerges victorious and this game would probably be the difference between making and missing the playoffs for the Big Reds.
Parkersburg South’s issue this year has just been a young team that’s made a lot of mistakes at key points in winnable games. This is a team that blew a 26-point lead at Warren, Ohio this season because they had more issues coughing up the football than an entire Robitussin factory could cure. A late game against a one-win team (Brooke) went as a loss because Parkersburg South had the misfortune of running into the one-win team in the state (one win at the time, that is) that had probably played the toughest schedule of any other one-win team to that point of the season.
Both teams have had the most success offensively by running the football. This one will be decided in the trenches – which team is best able to run block and move the football on the other. Parkersburg’s defense might be able to shut down the Patriots, though. During a three-week midseason stretch, the Big Reds held three straight opponents to under 30 points. This doesn’t sound like a huge accomplishment, but it’s praiseworthy given the sometimes porous nature of the Big Reds’ defense in the last few years.
Ravenswood (5-4) at Ripley (2-7)
This game is known statewide as the “Battle for the Hatchet” and for the Ravenswood Red Devils, it’ll be necessary to chop down the Ripley Vikings if a trip to the state playoffs is to happen this season. Needing to win at least one of its final two games to get into the postseason, the Red Devils let the first chance to get that win slip by last Friday in a 12-0 loss to St. Marys.
Ravenswood didn’t have a lot of scoring chances against a stout St. Marys defense that’s shut out its last two opponents, but the Red Devils did put together two goal line stands in the second half defensively. Fortunately this week, the Red Devils won’t be facing an opponent that’s been nearly as stingy on defense as St. Marys has been this season.
Class AAA Ripley has held opponents to 20 points or fewer just twice this season and has allowed 60 points or more three times. Granted, Ripley HAS played Class AAA powerhouses Huntington, Point Pleasant, South Charleston and George Washington, but still…this defense has been less than airtight.
Though Ripley has just two wins this season, the bonus points the Red Devils would receive from a win over a Class AAA team should solidify Ravenswood’s first-ever playoff berth under second-year head coach Mick Price.
Ritchie County (6-3) at Grafton (0-8-1)
The Ritchie County Rebels pulled off the effort of the week in the area last week in a 38-31 win over Williamstown. The Rebels scored the first 14 points of the game and trailed for only a brief period in the third quarter en route to their first win in Williamstown since 1996 and their first over the Yellowjackets under third-year head coach Mike Dawson.
Alex Lipscomb played like a man possessed for the Rebels, carrying the team on his back on both sides of the ball. Defensively, Lipscomb made several nice tackles to spark the Rebels. Offensively, he picked up 170 of Ritchie County’s 227 rushing yards and ran for two touchdowns while throwing for a third.
The best sign Rebels fans got from this game though was the continued resiliency and fight the players showed at numerous times. After their effort was questioned by their head coach – publicly and repeatedly in the local media – following a disappointing 20-14 loss to Tyler Consolidated, the Rebels showed courage at a few places where it would’ve been easy not to do so.
In addition to jumping out to the big early lead, the Rebels answered back when Williamstown twice tied the game in the first half. But the Rebels stepped up the most in the third quarter. On their first offensive play of the quarter, Lipscomb’s fumble – Ritchie County’s only turnover of the night – turned into the only Williamstown lead when the Yellowjackets got a go-ahead field goal on their ensuing drive.
Ritchie County responded by capping a scoring drive with a 32-yard touchdown run by Tyler Reed and the Rebels never trailed. With a similar effort this week, the Rebels should make quick work of the woeful Bearcats and await their first-round destination.
Roane County (7-2) at Williamstown (7-2)
There probably aren’t too many teams in the state that found themselves in a position of greater opportunity than the Williamstown Yellowjackets did last week. Playing at home against a solid Class AA, the Yellowjackets could’ve done yeoman’s work to shore up a spot in the Class A top-four.
Instead, the Yellowjackets surrendered more than 200 yards on the ground and lost at home for the first time all year in a game they barely led. Williamstown responded well after being punched in the mouth early to the tune of a 14-0 Ritchie County lead. The Yellowjackets scored twice to tie the game at 14-all and then after the Rebels retook the lead, Williamstown answered with a touchdown to send the game to halftime tied at 21.
Now, the Yellowjackets enter the final week of the regular season on the wrong side of the top-eight in Class A against a Roane County Raiders squad that’s hotter than Phoenix on the Fourth of July. After dropping two of their first three games, Paul Burdette’s Raiders have won six straight. Roane County enters this week ranked #13 in Class AA, so they need a win just as badly as the Yellowjackets do to better their playoff position.
For Williamstown, Jake Tracewell turned in an MVP effort in a losing cause a week ago. Tracewell connected with Hunter Neely for three touchdown passes while cashing in a fourth score from a yard out. The senior signal-caller wrapped up his night with more than 300 total yards and if the Yellowjackets are to wrap up their home season in style on Senior Night, they’ll likely need another big effort from the guy that’s been the catalyst of a talented offense all year long.
St. Marys (9-0) at Doddridge County (7-2)
On the NBC-TV broadcast of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, living broadcast legend Vin Scully was discussing the possibility that Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda might use injured star Kirk Gibson to pinch-hit against Oakland’s ace closer Dennis Eckersley when he said the following:
“All year long, the Dodgers have looked to Kirk Gibson to light the fire and all year long, he’s delivered.”
Of course, Gibson – hobbled by a knee injury that left him barely able to walk, much less run, went on to drill a 3-2 Eckersley offering into the right-field pavilion for the game-winning home run.
What does that have to do with this football game, you ask?
Well, in a similar fashion, the St. Marys Blue Devils have looked to David Gray to light the fire all year long and every time they’ve come calling, the senior has delivered. Gray’s two touchdown runs provided the only scores St. Marys would need in a 12-0 win over Ravenswood – the second straight shutout pitched by the Blue Devil defense.
Gray is one of a talented group of running backs, but more than the rest, it’s Gray that tends to put the team on his back during their moments of biggest need. During a two-game stretch this season – his first two games back on offense after missing two games due to injury – Gray scored seven of the ten total touchdowns his team scored in wins over Tyler Consolidated and Williamstown.
After Magnolia scored to take a 9-8 lead over the Blue Devils in the final minute on October 18th, it was Gray that went to head coach Jodi Mote according to sideline sources, asking to get the football on the team’s next offensive drive. After returning the squib kick to midfield, Gray got his wish – hauling in a pass from Michael Stout and getting the Blue Devils inside the red zone to set up the eventual game-winning field goal. So the Ravenswood game was just the latest chapter in what’s been a special season for Gray, and the Blue Devils as a whole. Doddridge County has a quarterback that manages the offense well (David Lipscomb), a bruising running back with an impressive combination of size, speed and quickness (Wyatt Ford) and an impressive perimeter speed and receiving threat (Jared Sandy).
Their linebackers also deliver some impressive punishment on the other side of the ball. Doddridge County has won three straight and is certainly a program on the rise under second-year head coach Bobby Burnside – clinching their second straight winning season, but talent and depth-wise, they just flat-out don’t match up with St. Marys.
Even with a bye week to prepare, Doddridge County will have to bring something better than even it’s best effort to knock out what should be a focused St. Marys team looking to wrap up a perfect regular season.This game can be heard locally on Lite Rock 93R (93.9 FM) and online at www.literock93R.com
Tyler Consolidated (5-4) at Bishop Donahue (6-3) (Thursday 7:30)
Thanks to an extremely crowded field at the bottom of the Class A rankings, the odds are long for the Tyler Consolidated Silver Knights to get into the playoffs this season. However, even falling short of that goal does nothing to diminish what the Silver Knights have accomplished in Ryan Walton’s first season as head coach.
After starting the year 0-4, the Knights have won five straight – most recently in a 33-14 victory against Valley Wetzel last Friday. Jacob Highley ran all over the Lumberjacks in Tyler Consolidated’s latest win, scoring four touchdowns on the ground as part of a 116-yard night.
All told, the Silver Knights racked up 207 yards on the ground in the win. The Silver Knights have a winning record going into November football games for the first time in years. To even speak of the playoffs as a possibility this late in the season is a huge sign of how much the culture has already changed at Tyler Consolidated and is continuing to change. But the Silver Knights are surrounded by teams that can do a lot more to advance in the rankings than they can as they enter this week at #19.
Bishop Donahue won’t be an easy team to get around this week either, as they come in off a 33-32 win against Wheeling Central at Wheeling Island Stadium that raised eyebrows all over the place. But this Tyler Consolidated team has played much of the season with a “What have we got to lose at this point?” attitude that may suit them well in a game like this. This game can be heard on WXCR-FM (92.3 FM) and online at www.wxcr.com.
Wahama (8-1) at Buffalo (0-9)
The White Falcons won their seventh straight game last week, destroying Miller, Ohio 66-8. 66 points, by the way, is a new season-high for a Wahama team that’s reached 50 points three times and 60 points on three other occasions.
Kane Roush caught two touchdown passes from Hunter Bradley, ran for a touchdown, returned an interception for a score and returned a punt for a fifth touchdown to lead the way for Wahama.
So, this week’s matchup with winless Buffalo can perhaps best be summed up using everyone’s ancient form of poetry – haiku:
Dominant, strong, bold
Words that describe Wahama
Fat chance, Buffalo
A win and some help may deliver the White Falcons a home game, but they’ll still finish around the middle of the Class A heap and prove an especially difficult matchup for whichever top seed is unlucky enough to draw them in the quarterfinal round.
Valley Wetzel (3-6) at Paden City (4-5)
Wirt County (3-6) at South Harrison (2-7)