BECKLEY - In a Mountain State Athletic Conference matchup on Friday, the Vikings (2-2) will take on the Flying Eagles of Woodrow Wilson (3-1) in a game that features tremendous team speed on both rosters.
Woodrow Wilson began 2012 with a 32-14 victory over Princeton. They followed that up by beating a solid Greenbrier East squad 42-34 in a shootout.
On September 7 they came back to topple pass happy Hurricane 35-34 and last week stumbled badly in a blowout loss to Spring Valley, 41-12. Wilson entered the Spring Valley game ranked second in AAA. This week they have fallen out of the top ten with the demoralizing loss.
It all starts with the Flying Eagles athletic dual threat quarterback Andrew Johnson. He leads the team in passing and rushing. He was picked off four times versus Spring Valley and two of them were pick sixes.
Brent Osborne leads a stable of running backs that are continually in and out of the game keeping the legs fresh at the position.
The Eagles are athletic at wideout and have athletes who can go up for the ball. Cole Williams and Donte Nabors have been threats early on.
Defensively, Woodrow Wilson gave up 273 yards to Spring Valley's Elijah Wellman last week. This could bode well for Ripley's rushing game that terrorized Nitro and Lincoln County. The flying eagles committed six turnovers in that game, a trend that would be helpful to Ripley if it continued for another week.
Ripley could easily be 3-1 when you look at the fourth quarter meltdown versus Winfield, a team they should have beaten handily.
The Vikings are looking forward and are focused on the task at hand.
"They (Wilson) have a couple of track guys who can really burn. We can't let ourselves get beat by the big play," said Viking coach Jimmy Frashier.
Ripley will be going with sophomore Jake Martin at quarterback for the second week in a row after Trevor Tucker was lost to a knee injury last week. Martin is a hard-nosed runner with a good enough arm to get the ball where it needs to go. He has a penchant for making big plays and is known for his toughness.
Ripley's gaggle of running backs has feasted on their prey over the last two weeks. Tyler Pittenger, Ryan Stutler, Jacob Lewis and company has proven they can carry the load.
Senior Quaseem Fields has proven hard to tackle for opposing defenses on returns and on bubble screens.
A pleasant offensive surprise for Ripley outside the solid play of receiver Tyler Kidd who has caught everything thrown his way, has been the emergence of Kade Harrison. The 6-3 junior receiver has proven to be a tough cover for shorter defenders who are faced with his combination of basketball softened hands and ability to go up for the ball. Harrison is deceptively speedy and can get behind the coverage.
The young Viking offensive line led by versatile senior Andy Mellert is beginning to gel and look like a cohesive unit.
Defensively, Ripley is led in tackles by safety Justin Hinzman. Ripley's defensive line will have to win the battle up front for the Vikings to win this game. They will have to pressure Johnson into the same poor decisions that Spring Valley were able to provoke last week.
If the Vikings can establish their running game to free up some coverage down field for Harrison and company, Ripley has a real chance to leave Beckley with a victory. If the defense lets Johnson get lose and go Pat White on them, it will be a long night for the blue and white.
From Mark Martin's Notebook: Beckley reached playoffs last year for first time since 2005...The school's home venue, Van Meter Stadium, has a grass surface...Lilly is a former standout player at Bluefield High and what was then Concord College (now University)...He's been the school's head coach since 1999...Lilly replaced Pete Culicerto, who had guided the program for 22 seasons...He was the head coach at Shady Spring prior to taking over at Beckley...He was replaced at Shady by Vince Culicerto, Pete's youngest of seven son...Pete Culicerto guided Beckley to a Class AAA state championship in 1977 at Ripley's Memorial Stadium with a 6-0 win over Fairmont Senior...Beckley grad Doug Legursky, who starred at Marshall, is a starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers...His late grandfather, Carl, served the Jackson County area as a State Police officer back in the '60s...This night will be the 35th anniversary of Beckley's 6-0 AAA West Virginia State Championship victory over Fairmont Senior.