By Eric Little — For WVMetroNews.com
It’s fitting that a week where weather has played havoc on the high school football schedule comes in the same week where we commemorate the anniversary of 9/11.
Several games throughout the state have changed dates in anticipation of inclement weather forecast to hit later in the week. The reason these games are moving is because despite the attention we give these games, most of us understand that life is bigger than football.
That was never more evident to many than in 2001, when an entire week of the national sports calendar was wiped clean in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. High school football was one of the few events anywhere to take place that week, and the games served as a respite from a terrible week in our country.
They also provided chances to bring community members together to heal, to laugh, to enjoy themselves and to focus on life’s positives after a negative week.
In their own ways, both the decision to play games the week of 9/11 and the decision to move games this week remind us that there are things bigger than football.
And as much as West Virginians love football, we do a good job to remember its proper perspective in our lives.
Here’s a look at this week’s Mid-Ohio Valley games:
No. 2 Capital (3-0) at No. 16 Parkersburg (1-2)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Last Week: The Big Reds cracked the win column with a 28-7 win over Woodrow Wilson that saw the return of Brenton Strange to the PHS lineup. Capital rolled to a 49-10 win over Hurricane – their third straight win to start the season.
Why It’s Important: Parkersburg has the talent to be a top-5 team, but they’ve not had the health and they’ve not executed as well as they’re capable of in each of their two losses. Capital is the largely undisputed second-best team in Class AAA right now, and will be the biggest test yet for the Big Reds. But they’ll also be facing their biggest test in Parkersburg, so this will be our best chance yet to get a feel for where this Capital team falls in the Class AAA hierarchy.
Who to Watch for Parkersburg: Strange. Seven catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Welcome back to the lineup. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of other talented players on the Parkersburg roster, but Strange’s production has clearly been missed. Later in the year, expect the production of other receivers to pick up too, once they get healthy and Strange begins to draw more and more defenders.
Princeton (0-2) at No. 16 Parkersburg South (1-2)
When: Friday at 7:00 p.m.
Last Week: Parkersburg South fell 26-16 on the road to Athens, Ohio. South recorded four takeaways, but turned them into just six points. Princeton is coming in off a bye after back-to-back losses to start the season.
Why It’s Important: Parkersburg South played well enough to win during large portions of its two losses — to University and Athens in consecutive weeks — so the Patriots will be out to show they’re capable of making the plays they need to make over four quarters. Princeton will be looking to break an anemic offense out of a season-long slump. In two games combined, the Tigers have rushed for fewer than 30 yards.
Who to Watch for Parkersburg South: After missing South’s first two games of the season, Brett Hearn made his presence known in the Patriots’ lineup. Hearn’s interception came on his first defensive snap of the season and the game’s first play from scrimmage. On the other side of the ball, the senior captain hauled in a second-quarter touchdown pass from Brayden Mooney.
Marietta, Ohio (2-1) at No. 8 Ripley (2-1)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Last Week: Ripley waited out a long delay to pick up their second straight win – a 34-30 victory over Riverside. Marietta fell 33-22 to Williamstown.
Why It’s Important: This will be an important test for both teams, as both have been on similar tracks in each of the last two seasons. Both are under coaches (Marietta’s Jason Schob and Ripley’s Eddie Smolder) that are eager to get their programs to take the next step by leading them to winning seasons. In a lot of ways, these programs mirror each other – with both taking more realistic looks at what have been difficult schedules in the last few years in order to allow their teams to better meet expectations. The difference is that Marietta likes to throw the football and expect Ripley to keep things on the ground.
Who to Watch for Ripley: The Vikings like to lean on three-year starting running back RJ Evans. If they can get him going, Marietta could be in for a long night.
No. 11 Williamstown (2-1) at No. 8 Ravenswood (2-0)
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Last Week: Williamstown went across the river to earn an impressive 33-22 win over Marietta, Ohio. The Yellowjackets swarmed on defense, pressuring Marietta quarterback Corbin Alkire all night long and racking up six sacks. Ravenswood comes in off a bye week after two straight wins to open the season.
Why It’s Important: With St. Marys struggling at the start of the season, there’s room at the top of the mountain for someone new. Enter Ravenswood, who could stake their claim as one of the best small-school teams in the area with a win against the Yellowjackets. Williamstown is still flying somewhat under the radar after their season-opening loss to Wheeling Central, but a win would continue to send the signal that the Yellowjackets are one of Class A’s top contenders this season.
Who to Watch for Williamstown: Donathan Taylor had his breakout game thus far in 2018, with 146 yards and three rushing touchdowns on 25 carries.
Who to Watch for Ravenswood: Jacob Anthony ran for three touchdowns as part of a 159-yard night against Webster County in Ravenswood’s 31-16 win two weeks ago.
No. 6 Parkersburg Catholic (3-0) at Wirt County (1-2)
When: Friday at 7:00 p.m.
Last Week: Parkersburg Catholic rallied from an early 13-0 hole to earn a 36-21 win over South Harrison. Now, after going winless in 2017, Parkersburg Catholic has won three straight to start the year. Wirt County fell 20-14 to previously winless Gilmer County.
Why It’s Important: At 3-0, and with a favorable schedule the rest of the way, the chances of a winning season look pretty good for Parkersburg Catholic. One of those wins is against a Ritchie County team that will prove to be a quality win for the Crusaders, so now, Lance Binegar’s group needs to gather wins and hope to rack up enough points to earn a playoff spot. Wirt County can turn their season around with a big win against one of the area’s most improved teams from a year ago.
Who to Watch for Parkersburg Catholic: The Crusaders got all but one of their 370 total yards of offense on the ground. Jeb Boice ran for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Ty Sturm racked up a season-high 225 yards and two touchdowns. But they run behind an offensive line that’s left opponents shaking their heads all season long.
Who to Watch for Wirt County: Defense and special teams – because one was good last week against Gilmer County and the other was not. The Tigers held the Titans to just 73 total yards of offense, but gave up 21 points on two pick-sixes and a kickoff return. Wirt will need to play well in all three phases to get a win this week.
No. 14 Ritchie County (2-1) at St. Marys (0-2)
When: Thursday at 7:00 p.m.
Last Week: Ritchie County won their home opener 28-13 against Frontier, Ohio. St. Marys has lost their first two games to start the season, with the most recent coming in a weather-delayed 28-17 setback against Roane County.
Why It’s Important: St. Marys will be looking to get some traction going in their 2018 season after back-to-back losses to open the campaign. But things don’t get easy, because they’ll be facing one of their biggest rivals AND in a resurgent year for Ritchie County. Led by first-year head coach Rick Haught, there’s a new attitude in Ellenboro and heightened excitement around the program. A road win at St. Marys could springboard the Rebels to huge things this season.
Who to Watch for Ritchie County: Known primarily as a running team, the Rebels connected through the air on an eight-yard scoring strike from Cody Wayne to Tatem McCloy. Wayne is one of two quarterbacks the Rebels use and has thrown the ball well for Ritchie County this year. McCloy was quarterback last year and has the size to be a potent pass-catching weapon for Ritchie County. Most importantly though, it was important for the Rebels to show they can move the ball through more than one facet of their offense.
Who to Watch for St. Marys: Anthony Wince is proving to be a multi-talented threat for the Blue Devils. Wince scored on a 90-yard kickoff return in the third quarter, then hauled in a nine-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Brennan Boron later in the period.
Tyler Consolidated (0-2) at Calhoun County (1-2)
When: Friday at 7:00 p.m.
Last Week: Tyler Consolidated had a bye week following back-to-back losses to start the season. Calhoun County fell 48-0 to Doddridge County in a game that didn’t resume after halftime because of thunderstorms in the area.
Why It’s Important: Tyler Consolidated will be looking to right the ship against a Calhoun County team that’s scored just 24 total points in its three games. Calhoun County has a chance to catch a Silver Knights team that’s down, and a win would boost the Red Devils as they enter the meat of their schedule.
Who to Watch for Tyler Consolidated: Last week, this Calhoun County team faced Doddridge County standout Hunter America, and in just two quarters, Captain America put on quite the display. America took three of his eight carries all the way to the house for scores and topped 100 yards rushing. So for the Silver Knights, this game begins and ends with the ability of quarterback Griffin Phillips and running back Mark Rucker to move the ball on the ground. If the Silver Knights can get a consistent push from the big guys up front, they should be in good shape.
Who to Watch for Calhoun County: Anyone that can provide answers on offense. Tyler Consolidated has allowed 86 total points in two games, so they can be scored upon. Whether it’s a rushing attack or a passing attack, if Calhoun County can move the ball and score points, they stand a chance to pull the upset.
Other Games: Paden City (0-3) at Bridgeport, Ohio (0-3); Belpre, Ohio (1-2) at Wahama (0-3)