It will be Coach Eddie’s Vikings against Coach Eddy’s Patriots tonight (Friday) in Parkersburg.

Eddie Smolder will open his fourth season as Ripley’s head coach when the Vikings invade the Erickson All-Sports Facility on the city’s south side for a meeting with Mike Eddy’s sixth Parkersburg South team.

The Vikings are coming off a 4-6 season in 2017, which included some narrow defeats preventing them from reaching the Class AAA playoffs.

Parkersburg South endured a difficult 3-7 mark a year ago. The Patriots started 1-3 yet were still knocking on the door for a possible playoff spot as the season moved along. Had close losses been turned into wins against playoff-bound teams Wheeling Park and Parkersburg, the Patriots would have gotten a chance for at least one additional game.

Instead, South has now missed the playoffs three straight years. The program has a state title to its credit, winning it all in 2003.

“They’re experienced. They’ve got a bunch of returners,” said Smolder of South. “You’re going to see the same two teams you saw last year, just older.”

Smolder feels two players to key on for South are quarterback Brayden Mooney (6-1, 200, Sr.) and running back Nick Yoho (6-0, 190, Sr.). 

Mooney is the first quarterback South has had returning for a few years according to Eddy.

“It’s been one and done at that position,” Eddy said in a preseason interview. 

Last year against the Vikings, Mooney completed 7-of-13 passes for 93 yards.

Yoho scored the team’s two touchdowns on runs of two and four yards. Both TDs came in the second quarter.

Ripley came away victorious in the 2017 matchup at Memorial Stadium by a final of 28-12, giving Smolder a 2-1 mark against South. The Vikings took control of a close 14-12 game in the fourth quarter by scoring two more touchdowns.

R. J. Evans (5-9, 160 Sr.), who begins his senior season of Viking football tonight, had 16 carries last year for Ripley totaling 137 yards. He scored one of Ripley’s four touchdowns on a 27-yard run. Evans enters the season with nearly 1,500 rushing yards for his career. 

Unlike South, Ripley will have a new quarterback under center tonight as Cyrus Casto (6-0, 173, Sr.) will get his first varsity start against the Patriots.

“This is a big rivalry game,” said Smolder, who would love to lead Ripley to a playoff spot for the first time since 2009. “We’re close (to each other). A lot of the kids know each other. We all look forward to it.”

Ripley is coming off a 16-0 scrimmage victory over John Marshall last Friday.

“We didn’t do live special teams, but other than that it was like a real game,” Smolder said of his team’s second preseason scrimmage. The game was played at the Ripley Middle School Field due to the new turf installation project at Memorial Stadium still in progress. 

John Marshall was a playoff team last year and knocked out Parkersburg on the road in Week 1 of the postseason by a final of 42-35. The Monarchs then lost in the quarterfinal round to eventual state champ Martinsburg. 

Ripley scored a pair of touchdowns in the game and had a safety on the defensive side of the ball against JM.

“There were obviously things we’ve worked on and need to get corrected, but we were pleased,” Smolder said.

Smolder is more than ready to see what his team can do in a season outside of the Mountain State Athletic Conference. 

Offensively, Smolder knows his team must be ready for a lot of blitzing from the Patriots.

“We just have to do what we do,” he said. “And what they give us. They will blitz us a lot. We will have to be on our game.”

VIKING GAME NOTES – The kickoff tonight is set for 7 p.m. (not 7:30)…Ripley leads the overall series with South, 15-11…This season marks the 50thanniversary of the two school’s playing for the first time…Ripley came away with a 7-6 victory in the encounter of 1968 in what was just the second year of existence for South (which was broken off from Parkersburg High)…The Vikings squared off in the game with Steve McMillion, a one-time successful Ripley head coach…The schools have played in three different stages…The first two were 1968-71 and 1980-1992, respectively…The current stretch started in 2009…Each program has had a winning streak of six wins in the series with Ripley’s running from 1984-89 and South’s going from 2010-2015…The two schools have also produced four shutouts each…South’s 64-0 win in 1970 is the largest margin of victory in the series…Friday’s game will air live on WCEF-FM (98.3) with former Viking standouts Brian Johnson and Jeff Waybright on the call.