— By Eric Little

Life is fleeting. Life is fragile. Life is unfair.

Those are three of the most important things West Virginians remembered this weekend when we all learned of the tragic death of Roane County senior football player Alex Miller. 

Last Friday, Miller died following his on-field collapse during Roane’s game at Clay County. Since then, well-wishes and condolences have poured in from every corner of the state for Miller’s friends, family, teammates and the entire Roane County community. 

There have also been numerous efforts to raise money for the Miller family funeral expenses, with one of the largest in this area coming Sunday in Ellenboro. Members of football teams from Ritchie County, St. Marys, Williamstown, Parkersburg South and Belpre, Ohio turned out to show support for the Miller family, find strength and healing through fellowship and to raise money by soliciting donations. In just a few hours, the players collected more than $7,600 from drivers on nearby State Route 16.

This news hit West Virginians in all corners of the state. I’ve long believed one of the finest traits of our state’s people is an ability to empathize with someone going through a tragic circumstance. 

That’s likely because, as we all learned in eighth grade West Virginia History class, this state and its people have weathered too many tragedies. Frequency of occurrence has made it easier than it should be for West Virginians to look at a given situation and put themselves in the shoes of grieving individuals. 

One of the state’s last high school football deaths to result from an on-field event involved the 1993 Ritchie County Rebels. Chuck Schofield — now, their stadium’s namesake — was injured in a game against Wirt County. The following Wednesday, Schofield succumbed to those injuries. Former Rebel head coach Kenny Wright made the connection between the deaths in a Facebook post Saturday evening, offering rare insight from someone in an unfortunately similar position more than 25 years ago to that of the Roane County staff today:

“Prior to (Schofield’s death) happening, I had always said that I would never coach another game if I ever lost a player due to injury. But during the time of grief, I realized how important I was to the players on the ’93 team.” Wright posted. “I saw them, along with Chuck’s family, looking to us for our help throughout the tragedy.”

Now, it’s Roane County’s coaching staff, boosters, administrators and parents that are tasked with leading young men through a myriad of emotions they likely struggle to deal with themselves. 

Roane County, an entire state is praying for you. To the 2019 Roane County Raiders, keep moving forward. Just by showing up each day and continuing to work, you’re honoring your friend and teammate. We’re all rooting for you and are here for you.

To the business of football, here are this week’s games. (All rankings listed from WVSSAC Playoff Ratings)

GAMES TO WATCH

CLASS A

No. 1 St. Marys (2-0) at No. 6 Ritchie County (2-0)

When: Friday at 7 p.m.

Last Week: Both teams were off last Friday. Ritchie County comes in off its 50-13 dismantling of Parkersburg Catholic two weeks ago. St. Marys defeated Scott 34-7 in its second of three straight road games. Because of that, and the bye week, the Blue Devils don’t play a September home game.

Why It’s Important: This game has been a rivalry for a long time, and kicked off each team’s schedule for many years. For the most part, it’s gone through swings over the last 20 years, where one team dominated before the other would rise to glory for a time. 

St. Marys is trying to prove that last year’s 3-7 mark was a mere hiccup in the program Jodi Mote has created in Pleasants County. Ritchie County spent its first two games laying waste to opponents on their way toward proving they, too, have a solid program, and that last year wasn’t a one-year wonder. 

Who to Watch for St. Marys: Quarterback Brennan Boron has come into his own through two games this season, after an uneven debut season in 2018. Against Scott two weeks ago, Boron completed nine of his 12 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a score. Lucas Lipscomb and Jason Clayton caught the TD passes. The Blue Devils would also like to see more from running back Ben Long, a revelation in St. Marys’ opening week win against Roane County.

Who to Watch for Ritchie County: The biggest question for the Rebels will be who starts at quarterback — incumbent Cody Wayne or freshman Ethan Haught. Wayne seemed to win the position outright after a battle with another player last year, but has been limited in his first two games because of a hip injury. Haught has filled in ably, managing the offense and distributing the football to Ritchie County’s plethora of weapons. 

In addition to running backs Tre Moss and Garrett Owens, the Rebels have Gus Morrison — a player who also earns his keep through the kick return game. Look for Ritchie County to get receiver Kaden Procacina more involved as well. 

No. 15 Wirt County (2-1) at Parkersburg Catholic (1-2) 

When: Friday at 7 p.m.

Last Week: Perhaps still reeling from their loss to Ritchie County, Parkersburg Catholic hit the road and suffered their second straight loss, a 28-21 setback to a South Harrison team that more than doubled their scoring total from their first two games combined. Wirt County won their second straight, showing stern defense in a 27-2 win over Gilmer County.

Why It’s Important: Wirt County has a chance to really gain some momentum in the first year of Jason Hickman’s second stint as head coach. Parkersburg Catholic is headed down a slippery slope after back-to-back losses and needs to stem that tide in a hurry.

Who to Watch for Wirt County: Garrett Parsons took three of his 15 carries to the end zone in Wirt’s win against Gilmer County. Nathan Murray also recorded a 73-yard pick-six for the Tigers to lead the defense. 

Who to Watch for Parkersburg Catholic: The Crusaders have had to rely on the running game for so long, but quarterback Xavier Collie and running back Jeb Boice teamed up to throw for 154 yards. Parkersburg Catholic actually recorded more passing

yards than rushing yards. Collie’s lone completion was a 16-yard touchdown strike to Nick Stricker, while Boice threw touchdown passes to both Stricker and Jalen Brunny.

Ravenswood (1-1) at No. 8 Williamstown (2-1)

When: Friday at 7 p.m.

Last Week: Ravenswood comes in off a bye week after their 20-14 home loss against Buffalo two weeks ago. The Red Devils led 14-7 deep into the fourth quarter, until Buffalo rallied for 13 points in the game’s final 3:27. Williamstown crossed the river to earn a solid 34-7 victory over previously-unbeaten Marietta, Ohio.

Why It’s Important: Ravenswood had two weeks to prepare, so expect the Red Devils to bring their best effort. Williamstown looks like a team poised to do what previous Yellowjacket teams have done by getting stronger as the season progresses and building momentum for a deep playoff run. A win here adds to that.

Who to Watch for Ravenswood: Jacob Anthony ran for 105 yards and a touchdown against Buffalo two weeks ago to lead the Red Devil rushing attack.

Who to Watch for Williamstown: The Yellowjackets have a knack for successfully doing the thing to an opponent offensively that the same opponent likes to do on offense themselves. After rushing for over 330 yards and three scores two weeks ago, Marietta running back Chase Taylor was held to 28 yards on nine carries by a Williamstown defense that limited the Tigers to a meager 21 rushing yards overall. 

At the same time, Williamstown ran a whopping 57 times for 273 times. Jarrett Frazier and Brayden Modesitt each ran for two scores, while Modesitt connected with Nick Bondi on a 56-yard touchdown pass play.

CLASS AAA

Princeton (1-1) at No. 3 Parkersburg South (3-0) 

When: Friday at 7 p.m.

Last Week: Parkersburg South opened its home schedule with a 42-20 win over Athens, Ohio. The Bulldogs scored first before South reeled off 42 straight points. After scoring seven touchdowns in both of their first two wins, the Patriots hit the end zone six times while handing the Bulldogs a third straight loss to start the season. Princeton evened its record with a 49-9 win at home against Oak Hill.  

Why It’s Important: Parkersburg South is in the middle game of a three-game homestand, with a chance to build on its first 3-0 start to a season since 2004. Princeton is playing its first road game of the season and wants to build on last week’s win.

Who to Watch for Parkersburg South: Senior Braxton Amos has made his name as a two-time state champion wrestler, but playing his first varsity game last Friday, Amos recorded three sacks and recovered a fumble. He teamed with Jeffrey Tucker to take near-permanent residency in the Athens backfield and help provide some real teeth to the Patriot pass rush.

For the third straight game, South racked up more than 400 total yards of offense. Brandon Penn ran for 196 yards and two scores, while Devin Gaines also added two touchdown runs for South. 

No. 7 Parkersburg (2-1) at No. 7 Capital (2-1) 

When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Last Week: Parkersburg bounced back from an ugly loss in Week 2 to pick up a resounding 35-6 win at home over Woodrow Wilson. The Big Reds held Woodrow to just 60 rushing yards and 128 total yards of offense. 

Capital earned its second straight win — a 33-21 triumph at Hurricane in the Cougars’ first road game of the season. The Cougars open their season playing three of their first four games at home, with this being the final contest of those three.

Why It’s Important: Parkersburg needs to prove it can play on the road against a good team, though the Big Reds have just two road games remaining after this one. Capital hits the road for a less-than-fun gauntlet of Cabell Midland/Spring Valley/Huntington in consecutive weeks, so they’ll want to store wins. 

Who to Watch for Parkersburg: Quarterback Bryson Singer, statistically speaking, had his strongest game in last week’s win against Beckley. Singer carried 20 times for 133 yards and threw for two scores for the Big Reds. Michael Owen got a touchdown run on his lone carry of the night, while Xadrian Snodgrass ran for 85 yards and two touchdowns for Parkersburg.

Ripley (1-2) at Marietta, Ohio (2-1)

When: Friday at 7 p.m.

Last Week: Ripley stumbled in a 28-26 loss to Riverside. Marietta fell 34-7 at home against Williamstown. After topping 50 points in their first two games of the season, the Tigers were held to just seven points and limited to 21 rushing yards as a team.

Why It’s Important: After bouncing back from their opening week loss, Ripley dropped a narrow decision to a resurgent Riverside team. The Vikings will be looking to stop the bleeding before they get deeper into their schedule. Marietta is likely suffering a bit of an identity crisis after last week’s loss. The Tigers had been a running team in their first two wins, but after they had little success running against Williamstown last week, Marietta may be in a vulnerable spot coming into this one.

Who to Watch for Ripley: Dalton Myers ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns, but as a team, the Vikings lost four fumbles in their loss to the Warriors last week. Ball control will be key this week in a matchup between two teams that like to keep things grounded.

Other games: Wahama (1-2) at Belpre, Ohio (1-2); Calhoun County (1-2) at Tyler Consolidated (0-2); Bridgeport, Ohio (0-3) at Paden City (0-3)

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