Steve Sayre won’t be the only change when it comes to Ripley Viking football in 2020.
The schedule his first Viking team will face off against will be quite different than the 2019 slate.
Sayre was hired this past winter as the latest head football coach for the blue and white.
A 1974 Ripley High graduate, Sayre was a standout lineman for the Vikings in the seasons of 1971-73. He also excelled in wrestling during the early years of the sport at Ripley High.
Sayre served two different stints as an assistant with the Viking program under Jimmy Frashier and Eddie Smolder. He also enjoyed great success as the school's head wrestling coach.
Before coming back to Jackson County, Sayre was the head football coach at Marietta High School in Ohio. He was also an assistant at both Fairland and Washington Courthouse in the Buckeye State. While at Washington Courthouse, Sayre's 1981 team played for the Division III state championship.
Three new teams dot the schedule for his initial Viking team in 2020.
While Lincoln County makes a return as a Ripley football opponent, both Oak Hill and Shady Spring will take on the Vikings for the first-time ever.
Those three replace Parkersburg South, Riverside and Princeton.
Ripley is coming off a 4-6 season, its last under former Viking standout Eddie Smolder, who led the program for five years.
The Vikings just missed making the Class AAA playoffs for a second straight year in 2019.
Ripley defeated Buckhannon-Upshur (38-7), Brooke (33-9), St. Albans (42-0) and Ravenswood (36-0).
Losses were issued by Parkersburg South (49-18), Riverside (28-26), Marietta (21-14), Greenbrier East (34-28), Princeton (42-34) and Pt. Pleasant (27-10).
Parkersburg South, Riverside and Greenbrier East were all Class AAA playoff teams last year.
Ripley will open its season August 28 at home against Brooke. The proud Bruin program is coming off a 3-7 season in 2019.
September 4, Ripley will hit the road to meet the Buccaneers of Buckhannon-Upshur.
The Bucs finished 1-9 a year ago with their only win coming against Philip-Barbour.
Lincoln County invades Ripley September 11.
The program has moved back to Class AAA. And like Buckhannon-Upshur, the Panthers had to deal with a tough 1-9 campaign a year ago.
Lincoln County dodged a winless season by defeating Sherman, 32-0, in its final game.
Ripley will have an open date the weekend of September 18.
The Vikings close out the September portion of the schedule by going to John Duda Stadium in Oak Hill for a meeting with their first of two opponents nicknamed the Red Devils.
Oak Hill was 3-7 last year and will have a new head coach in 2020 as veteran David Moneypenny takes over. Moneypenny enjoyed success at Fayetteville High School before the school closed in the spring of 2019.
October begins with Sayre going up against the program he once guided in Marietta on the second day of the month.
The Tigers were 4-6 last season. Three straight losses ended their season.
The St. Albans Red Dragons will await the Vikings arrival at Crawford Field October 9.
St. Albans finished 1-9 last year under second-year head coach Nick Watts. The lone victory came against Lincoln County, 24-6.
Greenbrier East will host the Vikings October 16.
Ray Lee’s Spartans were 7-3 last season and earned a home playoff berth. They lost a tough 28-27 setback to Spring Mills in the opening round.
East and Ripley played each other three times in the span of two seasons. In 2018, the two met in the regular season and then again in the playoffs with Ripley winning both showdowns.
Shady Spring will come to Ripley for the first-ever meeting between the schools October 23.
The Tigers enjoyed an excellent 9-1 season a year ago with the lone loss coming at the hands of Nicholas County, led by former Ravenswood Red Devil Gene Morris, 19-13.
Shady earned the right to host a Class AA playoff game but lost in the opening round at Thomas Field to Mingo Central, 13-7.
The head coach of the Tiger program is Vince Culicerto. His father, Pete Culicerto, was the head coach for several years at Beckley Woodrow Wilson. Pete Culicerto’s Flying Eagles defeated Fairmont Senior, 6-0, at Ripley’s frigid Memorial Stadium for the Class AAA state championship in 1977.
One of Vince Culicerto’s assistants is older brother Phil, who was the junior starting quarterback on that state title team. Vince and Phil are two of their father's seven sons to play for him at Woodrow.
The Battle of the Old Oaken Bucket takes center stage at Memorial Stadium Octobert 30 with Dave Darst’s Pt. Pleasant Big Blacks coming to town.
Darst’s program, which has been among the best the last several years in West Virginia, managed to have just an eight-game schedule last year and finished 4-4. It ended a run of 11 straight years in the playoffs (both Class AA and Class AAA).
Ripley’s regular season will come to a close with another coveted prize on the line. The Vikings head to Ravenswood’s Flinn Field at Spano-Taylor Stadium to face the Red Devils in the Battle for the Hatchet.
Ravenswood was 3-7 last season in what was Eric Hupp’s second season as head coach.