AA No. 1 comes to town
RAVENSWOOD - It's a game practically every Red Devil player pointed to in the preseason. And now the wait is over.
The Beast is coming to town Friday night, and defending Class AA state champion and preseason No. 1 Wayne (2-0) has done nothing to diminish that high expectation.
However, in the first WVSSAC football rankings of the season, it is Ravenswood (2-0) that is ranked higher (tied for No. 4 in Class AA with Keyser with a 9.50 rating) than Wayne (2-0, rated No. 8 with a 8.00 rating). As if the juices won't be flowing enough already Friday night.
Coach Tom Harmon's Pioneers opened their 2012 regular season by dismantling Chesapeake, OH, 58-12.
Mason Hodge (6-0, 230, So.) took the third play from scrimmage 77 yards for a touchdown, and Kennedy Award candidate Brandon Spurlock (5-7, 180, Sr.) ran for a score and returned a fumble 72 yards for another TD. Wayne played their reserves the entire second half after leading 40-6 at the break.
Sophomore quarterback Grant Ferguson (6-2, 171) ran for a 13-yard TD and passed for a 17-yard TD to Austin Pyles (6-2, 180, Sr.)
The Pioneers showed both their patented Wing-T power run formation and a jumbo Full House-T up-the-gut attack in blasting the Buckeye Panthers.
In last Friday's 46-7 win over Herbert Hoover, a team Ravenswood beat 40-20 in the season opener, Wayne went against type by opening with an aerial assault on the Huskies.
Ferguson threw for three TDs and ran for another. Wayne scored TDs on each of its first five possessions to put the game out of reach quickly.
Ferguson tossed TD passes of two and 25 yards to Hodge. He also scored on a 77-yard run and tossed a 10-yard TD pass to Pyles. The sophomore QB finished the first half at 9-for-11 passing for 101 yards.
Spurlock, who ran for over 1,600 yards in 2011, finished the game with 167 rushing yards on just seven carries, running for 33 yards or more on four of his seven totes. He scored on a 34-yard run in the first half.
The Pioneers lost just six seniors from their 2011 state championship squad, which entered the playoffs seeded No. 6 and ran the table to blast Pt. Pleasant in the state championship game on Wheeling Island.
Yet the homestanding Red Devils won't back down from the challenge Friday night at Flinn Field. In fact, they relish the opportunity.
"I told the kids this," said head coach Mick Price. "If there's anybody who is competitively great, they would love our schedule. We're going to play some of the best teams around.
"It's not an easy task to have your home opener with Wayne, the defending Double A state champion who could probably be in the Top Four or Top Eight in Triple A. They're really, really good. It's one of those games to see where we are. It'll be a benchmark to see what we need to do to get better."
But again, don't think for a minute that Price's Red Devils will merely show up Friday night. Wayne will get Ravenswood's best shot—and then some.
The Pioneers have averaged scoring 52 points per game through two games, while the Red Devils are averaging 41 points per game. Wayne has allowed just 9.5 points per game. Ravenswood has averaged allowing 22 points, although that average is skewed by special teams' breakdowns resulting in two kickoff return TDs allowed last weekend at Roane County.
Something will have to give Friday night at Flinn Field. If one defense doesn't dominate, the game could become a shoot-out. And that would be fine with Ravenswood's young guns.
But first and foremost, the Red Devils must tackle much better than they did last Friday at Roane. Missed tackles were glaring, especially on the two kickoff return TDs allowed. Missing tackles on Spurlock, Hodge and Ferguson could let Friday night's showdown game get ugly fast.
By the same token, the Red Devils with their three-headed rush monster in sophomore Rhys Jelich, junior Devon Crews and sophomore Connor Jelich will look to test the Pioneer defense which hasn't had one in its first two games. Rhys Jelich ran for an eye-popping 249 yards on 22 carries with two TDs last weekend. Crews added 83 yards on 17 carries with two TDs and Connor Jelich 20 yards on six carries.
Junior quarterback Heath Burgess has done well in a complimentary passing attack, connecting on five of 11 throws at Roane for 89 yards and two TDs.
Kickoff for the early season AA showdown is set for 7:30 p.m. Advance tickets will be on sale from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday in the RvHS Lobby.
PRE-GAME NOTES: The Red Devils and Pioneers have met just once on the football field—in the 2009 state AA playoff quarterfinals at Pioneer Stadium. Wayne won the game 27-0 behind 142 rushing yards from Corey Damron in a grind-it-out attack…Wayne's defense limited high-powered Ravenswood to just 28 net yards, one first down and 20 offensive plays in the second half and 160 yards of total offense for the game… Down 7-0, the Red Devils threatened in the second quarter but Starcher was intercepted on the Wayne three yard line…Wayne led 14-0 at the half and finished with 412 total yards…The Red Devils were limited to just 29 net rushing yards on 20 carries…Junior quarterback Cole Starcher, a 1,300-yard rusher for the season, was limited by a hamstring injury suffered in the Hatchet Game versus Ripley and completed just two of 12 passes for 13 yards in the second half after passing for 110 yards in the first half…Junior linebacker Jonas Jelich set a new single-season tackles record in the game…Brandon Spurlock, then a freshman running back, had five carries for 34 yards…Luke Murray had four catches for 85 yards for Ravenswood.