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Jackson Newspapers - Ripley, WV
  • Mark Martin’s Five Favorite Red Devil teams

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  • The fact that a Ripley native and former Viking is choosing his Top 5 Ravenswood Red Devil football teams of all time probably appears strange to many readers of Jackson Newspapers.
    Now don’t get me wrong, growing up as a die-hard Viking fan and later a player, there was indeed a dislike to the guys in red and black on the northern end of Jackson County.
    Yet, by growing up in the ‘70s it was hard not to respect what was happening with Ripley’s rival. Not only was Ravenswood cranking out winning seasons one after another, they were making the playoffs and winning championships.
    There were a few times during my youth that if Ripley had an away game that was too far to travel due to my father’s work schedule at Kaiser Aluminum, he would take me over to Ravenswood for a Red Devil game just so I could get my Friday night football fix.
    I grew to like the Red Devils. That is, of course, except when they battled Ripley for the coveted Hatchet.
    Through the years, friendships were developed with many of those I watched, played against and read about (in The Ravenswood News and The Jackson Herald).
    So, here are my Top 5 favorites in the red and black:
    No. 1:  1978 – This talented team gets the nod because they were the guys I first got to know from Ravenswood (the seniors on this team were my age). There were high hopes for this Devil squad that had a group of seniors who were unbeaten as eighth and ninth graders.
    The team stumbled out of the gate at 0-2, but managed to regroup and win seven of the last eight (including a 26-14 decision over Ripley in my last Hatchet game). Fortunately that was the season in which the high school football playoff field in West Virginia was expanded from four teams to eight. Ravenswood got into the playoffs of Class AA but its season came to an abrupt end when Poca knocked off the Devils, 7-3. The Dots had also handed Ravenswood an 18-0 loss in the season opener.
    Ravenswood’s cast of standouts included Jim Mahan, Doug Ritchie, Dave Karr, Greg Morris, Stan Johnson, Rusty Corbin, Tim Shumaker, Keith Alfred, Dave Parsons, Brian Harmon, Mike Brown, Jeff McCoy, Andy Gurtis and Ty Watson just to name a few.
    This team suffered some tough breaks in the season. In my opinion it was one of the best, not only in the state that season but in the history of Ravenswood High.
    No. 2: 1972 – This is one of those Red Devil teams I went to see when the Vikings were on the road. I kept up with this sensational crew as they reeled off one win after another.
    Page 2 of 3 - The Devils finished a perfect 10-0 and thankfully earned a spot in the Class AA playoff field. This year happened to be the one in which four teams qualified for the postseason in each class as opposed to two.
    Ravenswood finished third in the final set of ratings and hit the road to play Ceredo-Kenova (now a part of Spring Valley High School) at Huntington’s old Fairfield Stadium.
    The Devils found the new artificial turf to their liking as they raced past the Wonders, 35-14.
    Ravenswood went from the nice turf to a muddy mess at Stadium Field for the Class AA championship game against Magnolia. The Devils survived the pass-happy attack of the Blue Eagles and brought home the school’s third state championship trophy (to go along with the 1957 and 1959 titles) with a 14-6 victory.
    The thing that remains so neat about this championship was that it took place on the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day.
    Ravenswood was led that season by a talented corps of seniors that included Joe Fox, Gary Roark, Steve Seagraves, Ron Foose, Mike Workman, Drake Matics and Gordon Hopper…again just to name a few.
    No. 3: 1976 – Another Red Devil team I faced off with during my high school days. I was a sophomore playing special teams for the Vikings (who lost to the tune of 54-20 after taking an early 7-0 lead) against this outstanding squad that captured the school’s fourth state championship.
    Fred Taylor’s second state title team finished the regular season at 9-1 (with a tough loss to Point Pleasant).
    Ravenswood (which had beaten Ripley at home on the turf of Flinn Field) got to play a game at Memorial Stadium, home of the Vikings in the Class AA semifinal round. The Red Devils had no trouble with the green-clad Generals of Winfield coming away with a 28-0 victory.
    Next was a showdown in Beckley at old Van Meter Stadium against another team donning green in Big Creek. The Devils upended the Owls, 15-8, for the championship win.
    Again, Ravenswood featured a star-studded group of seniors in Mark Holley, Greg Keffer, James Morgan, Tim Staats, Joe Spano, Ed McCray, Mark Gorman, Bob Searls, Doug Moore, Jim Thompson and John McCoy…again just to name a few.  
    No. 4- 1974 – Another even year in the ‘70s meant a Red Devil team primed for postseason success.
    This Fred Taylor team was given the challenge of moving up to the ranks of Class AAA. Challenge accepted.
    The Devils rolled through the regular season with a 10-0 record that earned them a berth in the Class AAA final four.
    Ravenswood’s dream season ended at Laidley Field in Charleston with a 22-7 setback at the hands of eventual champ Stonewall Jackson.
    Page 3 of 3 - The Devils were led that season by a host of talented individuals like Joe Jelich, Todd Ritchie, Alan Hall, Dave Morley, Bryan Canterbury, Greg Davis, Randy Rardin and Jeff Harless…again just to name a few.
    No. 5-1985 – This Red Devil team finished with an 8-2 record, culminating with a big win over Ripley in the season finale. Unfortunately, the Devils just missed making the Class AA playoffs that season.
    Leading the charge for the Devils that season were Paul Fletcher (a future Major League Baseball pitcher), Bunky Seaver, Tim Casto, Robbie Taylor, Bryan Love, Kenny Staats, Tom Schindler and others.
    A missing piece to the Devils’ success that season was running back Kip Martin, who suffered a knee injury in the preseason and was lost for the year.

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