RIPLEY - Expectations were high for the 2012 Ripley football team. The boys in blue had put high expectations on themselves during August practices and many players expressed their desire to get the Vikings back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Coach Jimmy Frashier had brought in offensive coordinator Adam Hill, a standout Viking athlete himself who graduated in 1990 and played for coach Frank Marino.
Hill had felt the desire to come home to Ripley after stints working on the high school, college and professional level.
Hill's spread/read offense was a byproduct of his time spent as a player at Glenville State under former Pioneer coach Rich Rodriguez.
Ripley was trusting their offense to talented sophomore signal caller Trevor Tucker who not only displayed the arm to make the throws in Hill's system but the wheels execute the designed keepers and reads that keep the chains moving on Friday night.
In the season opener, Tucker showed his toughness and value as a quarterback as he torched Parkersburg South for 225 yards and three touchdown strikes while the Vikings scored 28 points.
Unfortunately, South hung 42 on the road team and the Vikings tasted defeat early.
The Vikings then hosted Winfield in a game that Ripley should have won for lack of a better description. The Generals came back with 14 unanswered points in the final period to steal one in Death Valley, 20-14. Tucker had a efficient night throwing for 165 yards and completing 15-of-26 passes on the evening.
Prior to the Nitro game coach Frashier felt that his squad could roll up some rushing yards on the Wildcats of Nitro.
"Based on the film we have seen, we are going to pound it on the ground at these guys," coach Frashier told JN just prior to the game.
Pound the ball they did. Ripley dismantled the Wildcats in a 48-20 drubbing at Death Valley.
Ripley racked up 319 yards rushing on the day and spread the love around the stable of capable runners on the Viking roster. Ripley was led in rushing by quarterback Trevor Tucker with 87 yards on seven carries and two scores, Jake Martin tallied 65 yards on seven carries, Austin Hileman had 52 yards on six carries, Ryan Stutler had 54 yards on eight attempts and a score and senior Tyler Pittenger had 58 yards on eight carries.
Then came that Thursday practice where Trevor Tucker suffered a season ending knee injury that required immediate surgery and could even cost him some time in the spring when baseball season begins. Tucker was on his way to a fine season. He had completed 31-of-61 passes for 426 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions and was only sacked once in three games.
Ripley looked to one of the better athletes on the team to step in under center. It was another super sophomore in Jake Martin.
Page 2 of 3 - Martin took control of the Viking ship and had less than 24 hours to prepare for his first game starting at quarterback.
All Martin did was throw for 235 yards and three touchdowns in his debut. The Viking defense did the rest as they held strong on three goal line stands in the game.
Junior wide receiver Kade Harrison had a monster game with 135 yards and a score. Harrison hadn't played football since eighth grade but made an immediate impact on the program.
It was the most evenly distributed defensive effort of the season statistically. Austin Hall, Justin Hinzman, Daryl Hicks and Preston Martin were the leaders on this night as they kicked the Panthers back to Lincoln County.
After a 44-0 loss to Woodrow Wilson on the road that found Ripley committing eight turnovers in an ugly showing, they quickly got back on the winning track with a 27-19 victory over Roane County.
Tyler Pittenger and Jake Martin each ran for over 100 yards in the victory.
After a 21-0 loss to No. 12 Hurricane which found the Vikings still in the game in the third quarter only down 7-0, the Vikings fell again to a winless Saint Albans team on the road. The 20-14 overtime loss was a dagger in the season that probably (along with the loss to Winfield) kept Ripley out of the playoffs in 2012.
Then came the highlight of the season and a feather in the cap of coach Frashier's decade-long run as the Viking skipper.
South Charleston brought their high-flying offense into Death Valley after scoring 70 points on Nitro the previous week.
In a game that was as good a defensive matchup as you could hope to ever see, the Vikings shut down quarterback Kentre Grier and a talented group of receivers as they took down the Black Eagles, 7-6.
The Vikings had a bye week to prepare for cross county rival Ravenswood who were suffering through a (2-7) season that found the Red and Black losing three games that they feel they should have won.
"The Hatchet Game" is always full of excitement and regardless of the team records is going to be choc-full of emotions, hitting and on this night, penalties.
The Vikings were penalized a nightmarish 20 times as they held on in overtime to beat the Red Devils on a blocked extra-point from Red Devil kicker Mason Carte. Ripley linebacker Nathan Tucker got a mitt in the air for the game winning play.
Ripley finished (5-5) overall and (3-4) in the MSAC. They were (4-1) at home and (1-4) on the road in 2012.
The Jackson Newspapers Offensive Viking of the Year goes to sophomore Jake Martin. After taking over at quarterback, martin led the team in rushing and passing while compiling well over 1000 total yards for the blue and white. He completed 44-of-118 passes for 451 yards and six touchdowns with 13 interceptions. He ran for 434 yards and three scores. It's worthy of noting that senior Tyler Pittenger ran for 431 yards and five scores on the season.
Page 3 of 3 - The JN Defensive Player of the Year goes to senior Justin Hinzman. The rugged safety led the defense in tackles with 96 (Preston Martin finished with 89) with four pass deflectionsand three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Hinzman was tied for tops on the team in interceptions with Quaseem Fields.
The JN Special Teams Player of the Year is senior Quaseem Fields. The versatile Fields averaged 21.4 yards per kick return and 9.4 yards per punt return in 2012. Fields was sure handed as he only fumbled once on special teams the whole season. He was also a major contributor on offense and defense.
The JN Lineman of the Year goes to senior Daryl Hicks. The 300-pound nose-guard was so much more than a "gap plugger" that many players his size tend to be. His quick feet allowed him to make plays away from his gap responsibilities as he had 51 tackles and three sacks on the season.
More Viking Team Leaders: Paul Lively led Ripley in punting with 15 for an average of 33.5. Easton Berry was 24-of-27 on extra points and was 1-of-3 on field goal attempts as he made a 27-yarder in the "Hatchet Game." Caleb Jennings averaged 48.6 yards on 38 kickoffs and netted five touchbacks on the season.
Kade Harrison led all receivers with 19 catches for 460 yards and six scores. Fields caught 14 balls for 107 yards.
Look for Jackson Newspapers' Ravenswood Football "season wrap up" and final 2012 awards in Thurday's Star edition of Jackson Newspapers.