Bridging the gap.

Southern Local High School and Ravenswood have met in a few varsity sports through the years.

But never before in football.

All that is about to change tonight (Friday). 

The Tornadoes, who own a 5-1 record, will cross the William S. Ritchie Bridge from nearby Racine, Ohio and invade Flinn Field for a matchup with the 2-3 Red Devils.

Besides the first-ever meeting between the two, another neat storyline is the game features head coaches in their first season at the helm.

Cassady Willford is the third head coach in a four-year span at Southern. Eric Hupp is the third different man in charge at Ravenswood during a five-year period.

Besides it being his first year as a head coach, Hupp will be coaching tonight against several players who were under him the past three years. 

Hupp was an assistant for three seasons at SLHS, including the last two as a member of  Mike Chancey’s staff before taking the Devil head football job.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Hupp said. “I know all those boys. I’ve been over there with them the past three years. I started with them when they were freshmen and now they are seniors. They’ve got a good crew coming in.”

Southern won its first four games before losing to Belpre. Last week they rebounded in a win over South Gallia. The Tornadoes are currently No. 8 in Ohio’s Division VII Region 27. 

Each division in Ohio is made up of four regions. The Top 8 in each region will make the playoffs. 

Ravenswood will be looking to put an end to a three-game losing streak tonight. At the moment, the Devils have fallen out of the Top 16 in West Virginia’s Class A (the top 16 at season’s end will reach the playoffs) ratings.

The two teams have met one common opponent. 

Ravenswood topped Wahama, 42-0, in its season opener while Southern had its way with the White Falcons, 43-0, in Week 3 of its season. 

Southern started the year with a 36-6 win over Portsmouth Notre Dame. Next came a 52-6 mauling of Federal Hocking. Following the Wahama win, the Tornadoes downed Miller, 58-13, to move to 4-0. Belpre and Southern engaged in a wild shootout on September 21 with the homestanding Golden Eagles prevailing, 55-41. Last week, Southern had no trouble with South Gallia winning 55-12.

Quarterback Logan Drummer (5-10, 150-pound Sr.) is the player who stirs the drink for Southern’s potent offense. He’s thrown for 987 yards this season and 18 touchdowns. Drummer has scored five touchdowns on the ground while rushing for 176 yards. 

He is also an excellent kicker, as well, having a 42-yard field goal to his credit this season.

Trey McNickle (5-10, 170-pound Jr.) is the team’s top rusher with 742 yards on 47 carries and 11 touchdowns. McNickle has 316 receiving yards on 10 catches and has scored seven times through the air. Weston Thorla (6-4, 165-pound Sr.) has caught 15 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Gage Shuler (5-9, 150-pound Jr.) has hauled in 14 passes for 172 yards and five scores. Brody Dutton (5-10, 150-pound Sr.) has three TD catches.

“Logan is having a great year,” said Willford, who played a Meigs under Chancey before going on to Heidelburg College where he was a three-year starter on the offensive line. Willford was an assistant coach at Meigs with Mike Bartrum before taking the Southern Local job. 

“Trey is averaging 15.6 yards per carry. All of our receivers have caught a ball and scored.”

Auston Colburn (5-8, 155-pound Sr.) is the team’s leading tackler with 81 stops, including two sacks. Austin Arnold (6-0, 205-pound Sr.) has 48 tackles, including seven for losses. Alex VanMeter (6-0, 205-pound Sr.) has 40 stops and has scored on a fumble recovery.

After winning its first two games over Wahama and Webster County (31-16), Ravenswood has fallen in three straight games to Williamstown, Sherman and Ritchie County. 

All three of those teams are in the Top 16 of Class A week. 

The latest ratings released by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission had Williamstown at No. 8, Sherman at No. 9 and Ritchie in the 15th spot. 

Ravenswood has some ground to make up to reach the Top 16. The Devils are tied for 24th with Meadow Bridge.

Willford is impressed with the Red Devils. 

“The (Luke) Jackson boy is a good player. He loves to hit. He reads his keys very well. They have some good team speed. They have good team size.”

Hupp knows this game could be the one to turn the season back in a positive direction. “We’ve got a great team. We take care of some inconsistencies and we’re going to be fine.”

Willford added. “I think this is going to be a great game. I think it could really be the start of a good rivalry.”

It certainly could.

Tonight it begins as Southern and Ravenswood bridge the gap and meet for the first time on the football field. 

 Game Notes

 Tonight’s game will recognize the latest inductees into the Ravenswood High School Red Devil Football Hall of Fame …Southern is a member of the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division … Other league members are Miller, South Gallia, Trimble, Belpre, Federal Hocking, Waterford, Eastern, and Wahama … Southern has reached the playoffs twice in Ohio since 2013 … The Tornadoes were beaten by Canton Central Catholic, 35-7, in the historic first playoff game in school history and then fell to TVC Hocking rival Trimble, 21-6, in 2016 … Chancey, the former Southern coach who is now an assistant principal at Meigs Local, was 15-6 as Southern’s head coach … He has ties to Jackson County … His father, Meigs coaching legend Charles Chancey, is a Ripley High graduate … Mike Chancey guided MLHS for 19 seasons and won 103 games … Southern Local athletic director Carl Wolfe is one of the state’s legendary basketball coaches … Wolfe led Southern to the State Basketball Tournament not once, but twice … His 1982 squad was the runner-up in Class A (Ohio now has four divisions in basketball) … He is a member of the Ohio High School basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Naismith Hall of Fame and the Marietta College Hall of Fame, where he starred in the late 50s … Of his 551 career wins, 214 were at Southern … Wolfe also coached at Middleport, Meigs, Waverly, Portsmouth Clay, and River Valley ... Tonight’s game will be televised and streamed live on Stadium/ (see story this page) … As always tonight’s game will be broadcast live on WMOV-AM (1360).