Ahhh yes….football season is here again in the Mountain State! I’ll save the hyperbole for later weeks when I’m not busy following baseball pennant races at the same time. Week one’s grid slate includes some pretty tasty matchups. All games Friday at 7:30, except where noted:
Brooke at Parkersburg
This game has the feel of one of those big time college football game where two opponents from power conferences clash early in the season in a game that could really set the tone – good or bad – at either school. Brooke has won each of the last two matchups with Parkersburg High School and is coming off an appearance in the state championship game where the Bruins fell to Martinsburg in a state title game that absolutely no one heard about. (I said hyperbole was taking a backseat…didn’t say anything about sarcasm.) Second-year Parkersburg head coach Don Reeves leads a Big Reds team into battle on Friday that played without senior running back Chad Collins in their final scrimmage. That isn’t expected to be a concern for the Big Reds as Reeves is ready to lead his 22 seniors into battle on Friday night as a healthy unit. 22 is an important number in this rivalry game – known as the 100-Mile War – because that was Brooke’s margin of victory in Wellsburg last year when the Bruins won their season opener 39-17 over the Big Reds. To win, the Big Reds will have to contain Bruins quarterback Alec Buchmelter, who isn’t afraid to run or throw. This should be one of the best matchups in the state in Week 1.
Parkersburg South at Ripley
This traditional opener between these two schools has been won by the home team in each of the last two seasons. Ripley, suffering heavy losses last season, should benefit from an extra year’s experience at all positions. Parkersburg South, battling an odd schedule that placed them away from home for six weeks (including a bye), fell just outside the playoff picture in Class AAA last season. The Patriots return signal-caller Tyler Bolen – a capable field general who will have plenty of options behind him in the backfield. Despite the 2-8 finish last year from the Vikings, expect a group that’ll be much improved after growing throughout the season last year and during preseason drills over the last month. Even with the proximity from home, it won’t be an easy road trip for the Patriots. If there’s two things Ripley gets excited for each season, it’s the Fourth of July and the Vikings home opener.
St. Marys at Ritchie County
One of Sheryl Crow’s biggest hits includes the line, “a little change will do you good.” That’s been the case at Ritchie County, where new coach Mike Dawson has infused new energy into the Rebels program – a program that hasn’t seen playoff football in Ellenboro in over a decade. And its energy that the Rebels will need as they head into battle with next-door neighbor St. Marys – as the two schools are located just 12 miles apart. Blue Devils head coach Jodi Mote – entering his tenth year as mentor at St. Marys – has NEVER lost to the Rebels. Ritchie County last defeated St. Marys in 2001 by a score of 18-12. He returns quarterback K.D. Arnett and a few other veterans from a team that finished 6-5 after a loss in the first round of the playoffs. The Blue Devils will have to find a way to slow Ritchie County running backs Darrenger Goff and Reno Jackson if they’re to make it ten straight wins. The biggest key may come at the line of scrimmage in the battle to see which offensive line is the first to overcome youth and inexperience. This game can be heard locally on Lite Rock 93R (93.9 FM) and online at www.literock93r.com.
Herbert Hoover at Ravenswood
It isn’t often that a winning high school football team that lost both their starting quarterback and running back to graduation – much less one that went to the state title game – replaces both players with athletes that have great experience at both positions. Ravenswood head coach Dick Sturm has that luxury in 2011, replacing Cole Starcher at quarterback and Luke Corley at tailback with Dustin Derito and Jeremy Lawrence at tailback. Derito started three games for the Red Devils and saw a lot of time in other contests, even when not in a mop-up role. Lawrence is lightning-quick and served as a great complimentary back to Corley while also showcasing his speed on kick returns. Lawrence racked up over 1,000 yards and the ground and reached paydirt 14 times in 2010. They’ll be a tough tandem for Herbert Hoover – and everyone else – to contain. Hoover always seems to find a way to keep this one close, but the home crowd on Opening Night may give Ravenswood the slight edge.
Moorefield at Wirt County
Another intriguing battle to open the season, as Wirt County – a semifinalist in Class A last season – hosts perennial small school power Moorefield in their opener. The Tigers, off an 8-2 regular season last year, return an abundance of talent at all positions. Quarterback Taylor Campbell, wide receiver JT Nemeth, running back/free safety Dalton Brindo and a multitude of others return for the Tigers. Moorefield will make the 4.5 hour trip to Elizabeth and is no stranger to making long trips to the Mid-Ohio Valley AND coming away with the win. In 2008, the Yellowjackets made the cross-state trek to St. Marys to get a two-point victory over the Blue Devils. Expect the Tigers to be humble, but still riding a tsunami of swagger into their opener against Moorefield – a game that should set the stage for another special season for Wirt County.
Tyler Consolidated at Williamstown
Perhaps no one plays a tougher schedule in the Mid-Ohio Valley than Tyler Consolidated, with a slate that always seems to have upwards of six or seven playoff teams by the end of the year. And since 2008, that schedule has started with the Williamstown Yellowjackets. The Yellowjackets knocked off Tyler Consolidated last season in their opener 41-0 and this year they’ll be debuting a new quarterback and lead running back. Jake Tracewell will get the start under center and he’ll be handing off to Trey King, who takes over as lead rusher after carrying the ball for over 600 yards a year ago. King is a big back, but don’t let his size fool you…he’s got fantastic speed. Rob Caldwell’s Silver Knights will have their hands full in their attempt to contain King and start their season on the right foot. This game will air locally on WXCR Radio (92.3 FM).
Buffalo at Parkersburg Catholic (Saturday)
It’s the beginning of a new era at Parkersburg Catholic as longtime head football coach Danny Tennant stepped aside at the end of last year and assistant Jeff Campbell was elevated to the head position for the Crusaders. After 27 seasons, Tennant departs with the cupboard full as the Crusaders return every starter but three from a team that went 7-4 and sent Tennant out with an appearance in the Class A playoffs. Expect Campbell to keep many of the same schemes that made Tennant a success for so many years and although he’ll have a tough opener in Buffalo, it would not be a surprise to see the Crusaders made a winner out of their first-year coach in his debut.
Paden City at Van
South Harrison at Doddridge County
Gilmer County at Calhoun County