The Hatchet.

Those two words, especially the second, resonate as much as any when talking sports in Jackson County year after year.

It is the prize given to the winning football team in the annual clash between Ravenswood’s Red Devils and the Vikings from Ripley.

Ravenswood and Ripley are Jackson County’s only two municipalities.

They are home to the two high schools located here.

It is a rivalry, yet there is a common bond between the two.

Jackson Countians, after all, are Jackson Countians. Many on opposite ends are married, work together or, are best friends.

Regardless, for a few hours tonight (Friday) there will be a battle take place – this year on the grass of Flinn Field – to see who takes possession of the coveted prize.

While it is Eric Hupp’s first season at the helm of the Red Devils, he is no stranger to the rivalry.

He was both a coach at the middle school level for Ravenswood and then served three years as an assistant for Mick Price (2012-14) before heading over to Southern Local in Ohio. He’s excited to be back and leading the charge of the red and black in general, and certainly for this annual classic.

“This is a game where you really don’t know what is going to happen,” Hupp said.

Many, many times through the years, the favorite has been beaten.

Ravenswood would love to be the spoiler this year.

Ripley comes to town with an eight-game winning streak. The 8-1 Vikings haven’t lost since their season opener. They are bound for the Class AAA playoffs. At the moment, Ripley is No. 7 in AAA. The Top 16 reach the postseason and those teams rated 1-8 get to host games.

“They’ve got a lot riding on this one, but so do we,” said Hupp.

The first-year head coach is aiming for his team to close the year with back-to-back victories.

Ravenswood snapped a six-game losing skid last Friday night with a win at St. Marys.

“It was nice to get that one,” said Hupp. “It was nice to play a full game.”

Hupp knows his team must do that again tonight if they are to end on a strong note.

“They are big and they like to run the ball,” said Hupp. Preparing for the Vikings means dealing with a multitude of ball carriers. Ripley’s leading rusher – R. J. Evans – was injured in last week’s game against Roane and his status was still questionable for the matchup against Ravenswood.

Regardless, Hupp knows shutting down the Vikings on the ground is first and foremost defensively.

On the offensive side, he wants to see his Devils manage to grind it out and hopefully hit some big runs.

Now in his fourth year as the head coach of the rivalry, Eddie Smolder knows what is at stake tonight.

“We want to be 1-0 in the Hatchet game and then head to the playoffs,” Smolder said.

His teams have dominated the last three years, but he’s been adamant this week of his current squad staying focused and not letting the past or Ripley’s current success stand in the way.

“We have to bring our A game every week. And this week is no different,” Smolder said. “If we don’t, we’re in trouble. I think our kids will be ready.”

Smolder is impressed with several players on the Devil squad, including senior fullback/linebacker Luke Jackson.

“He’s a good one. He plays the game with passion. He plays the game the way it is supposed to be played,” Smolder said. “We’re now going to see Max Hilton (senior quarterback/defensive back) for a fourth straight year. He’s a good player. We definitely have to be ready for those two.”

Ripley and Ravenswood have just one common opponent - Roane. The Vikings defeated the Raiders last week, 41-6, while Ravenswood dropped a wild 50-30 showdown the Friday before.

No two games are ever alike. Thus, this year’s has a different scenario for both as the 2018 regular season comes to a close.

Ripley knows it has more football coming with a postseason game next weekend. Ravenswood realizes this is it and so the showdown against the Vikings is indeed its playoff game.

And at the end of the night, one team will walk away with the prize of all prizes when it comes to West Virginia rivalries on the high school football…The Hatchet.

No two words have a better ring to it when it comes to Jackson County sports.