ELLENBORO – Two teams staring déjà vu in the facemask square off at Chuck Schofield Field in Ellenboro Friday night, when Coach Kemp Kelly’s Ravenswood Red Devils (1-4) take on the host Ritchie County Rebels (0-5) of Coach Kaleb Lawrence. To quote baseball great Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
Last year at Flinn Field in Ravenswood, the teams were both winless when they hooked up for a wild Homecoming game that saw Ravenswood rally from 21-0 down to win 39-21.
Travis Piggott’s 15-yard touchdown run and the wild, emotional celebration that followed put a red and black bow on the Red Devils’ thrilling come-from-behind victory.
Trailing 21-0 at the half, it appeared a lock that the Devils would lose their fifth straight game, after being dominated by the Rebels for two quarters.
But something changed in the third quarter. It began with Ravenswood putting together a six-play drive that culminated with back-to-back fourth down plays. The first gained enough for a first down but was called back on a procedure penalty. The second was the fulcrum on which Big Mo(mentum) suddenly swung Ravenswood’s way.
Sophomore quarterback Stephen Dawson hit freshman Max Hilton with a pass and Hilton outran Rebel defender 37 yards to score with 7:05 left in the third quarter. Ryan Cunningham booted the PAT and the Devils had shaved the Ritchie lead to 21-7.
The score ignited the Devils on both side of the football.
Just over two minutes later, Ravenswood struck again with a one-play lightning bolt as Dawson found Alex Casto over the middle for a 66-yard TD pass and run. The PAT kick failed on a bad snap, but the Devils had closed to 21-13 with 4:57 left in the third quarter.
Less than two minutes later, Ravenswood scored again—this time via senior Colton Stovall’s special teams’ gem.
Stovall fielded a Rebel punt and raced 44 yards to the end zone tight-roping the sideline at one point and getting a key block from Alex Casto that took out two Rebels. A pass for two failed, but the Devils had moved to 21-19 down with 3:12 left in the third quarter.
Much of the fourth quarter evaporated with no more scoring until Ravenswood put together a six-play, 80-yard march highlighted by Jake Greene’s 43-yard over the shoulder catch of a Dawson pass and his 27-yard catch of another Dawson dart for the capping touchdown with 3:51 left in the game.
Casto ran for the two-point conversion and Ravenswood led for the first time, 27-21.
Another huge special teams play set up another Devil TD less than two minutes later, when Devin Haid recovered a fumble after the Ritchie punter mishandled a low snap, was blasted and fumbled at the Rebel two yard line.
After a five-yard procedure penalty set Ravenswood back to the seven, Casto outran the Rebels to the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
The PAT kick failed, but Ravenswood had upped their lead to 33-21 with 1:53 left.
Ravenswood got the ball back in just 47 seconds on a Casto fumble recovery. Casto then made a highlight reel catch between two Rebels defenders good for 28 yards to set up the play that will never be forgotten—Travis Piggott’s moment in the spotlight after three years as a Red Devil.
Piggott ran onto the field to hugs from teammates, took a handoff from quarterback Stephen Dawson and swept around left end 15 yards into the end zone for a touchdown and into Red Devil Football lore.
The entire Red devil team and staff rushed into the end zone to congratulate Piggott, and hoisted him onto their shoulders in a wild, emotional celebration.
It was reminiscent of the movie, Rudy, but is was so much more.
It transcended sports and lifted to the heavens on a bleak, rainy night.
It was about heart and hope and humanity and sportsmanship and selflessness and comradery and so much more.
A year later, the same teams meet in a different venue, looking to flip the script on what has been a frustrating season thus far.
Ravenswood has better team chemistry and a super work ethic in 2016, but the results have not been rewarding.
Now injuries have crippled key skill position players, further gut-punching the team’s psyche. Someone—someones--need to step up and provide a spark. A t 1-4, the Devils could be, and should be, 3-2.
Early games against Wahama and Webster County slipped through Ravenswood’s fingers.
For the very young Rebels (just four seniors and 24 total players), the 2016 season has been bleak.
Ritchie County has lost all five games to St. Marys (42-8), Parkersburg Catholic (41-14), Berkeley Springs (39-20), Calhoun County (26-24) and Doddridge County (48-8). The Rebels average scoring 14.8 points per game (ppg), while allowing 39.2 ppg.
The Red Devils have averaged scoring 16.6 ppg, while allowing 35.4 ppg.
Top Rebels include quarterback Tatem McCloy (5-10, 150, So.), Connor Ensminger (6-0, 218, Jr.), Preston Testerman (5-8, 175, Sr.), Zachary Cline (5-9, 165, So.), Dylan Beall (6-3, 210, Sr.) and Jerry Blackburn (6-0, 256, Sr.)
The outcome of Friday night’s game would appear to turn on which team’s offense can exploit the other’s porous defense--or which defense can rise to the occasion and play a solid prevent game against the opponent’s offense.
Ritchie County has scored in double digits three times with two games scoring 20 and 24 points.
Ravenswood has scored in double digits in every game with a high of 28 points in their lone win over Tyler Consolidated.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Ellenboro.