ON TO THE SECOND ROUND: The West Virginia high school football playoffs are underway…well, sort of.
There just happened to be an array of forfeits last weekend due to the state’s color-coded map centering around COVID-19.
One of those teams having to forfeit was Ripley in its scheduled Sunday afternoon Class AAA showdown with South Charleston.
The Vikings entered the game as the No. 15 seed while SC came in at No. 2.
Jackson County was orange on Saturday, which meant Ripley couldn’t play the following day in South Charleston.
It brought the Viking campaign to a screeching halt.
Ripley had hoped for the opportunity of becoming another lower-seeded team to pull out a win in the opening round. No. 16 Elkins and No. 13 Herbert Hoover had done so on Friday in Class AA action while No. 14 East Hardy advanced in the Class A bracket.
The playoffs are a great reward for outgoing seniors but also for returning players.
The forfeit technically finishes Ripley at 6-4 for the season – the first under head coach Steve Sayre.
The victory by forfeit pushed South Charleston forward into the second round and the Black Eagles will now meet Princeton, who also gained a forfeit victory as well against Wheeling Park.
YOU LOOK FAMILIAR: There are plenty of familiar faces and teams in the playoffs as far as Jackson County is concerned. Class AAA’s No. 1 team is Cabell Midland. The Knights are guided by former Ravenswood Red Devils standout Luke Salmons, who has taken the program twice to Wheeling Island Stadium to compete for the AAA title.
His staff this season includes Eddie Smolder, the one-time Viking great who spent the past five seasons as his alma mater’s head coach.
Smolder engineered Ripley to the playoffs in 2018, advancing to the second round where they were stopped by Musselman.
Midland is set to meet Spring Mills on Friday night at home.
Spring Mills is a recognizable opponent which handed Ripley one of its losses in the regular season.
Midland moved to the next round with a victory by forfeit over John Marshall.
Spring Mills headed on to round two when it received a forfeit in its playoff opener with Parkersburg.
Another AAA forfeit came Spring Valley’s way over Hurricane.
AAA games that were staged had four-time defending state champ Martinsburg beating George Washington, Bridgeport (with Ripley’s Adam King as its defensive coordinator) downing Washington and Musselman topping University.
In Class AA, No. 16 Elkins shocked No. 1 Sissonville, No. 2 Bluefield easily defeated No. 15 Clay (a Ravenswood opponent this season), No. 4 Liberty-Raleigh was knocked off by No. 13 Herbert Hoover, No. 5 Oak Glen beat No. 12 Point Pleasant and No. 6 Fairmont Senior eliminated No. 11 Braxton County.
No. 10 North Marion got to move on due a forfeit with No. 7 Keyser. No. 3 Frankfort was sidelined because of the map, allowing No. 14 Independence advancement.
Frankfort and Keyser are located in Mineral County which was red on the map Saturday evening.
Also eliminated before ever playing a game was No. 9 Poca who was set to meet up with No. 8 Robert C. Byrd.
Class A action played on the field included three excellent games with No. 7 Ritchie (another Ravenswood opponent) topping No. 10 Wirt County, No. No. 8 Pendleton defeating No. 9 Moorefield and No. 14 East Hardy’s victory over No. 3 Doddridge.
The other Class A game that was played had No. 2 Greenbrier West winning easily over No. 15 Madonna.
Four games were cancelled due to the map. No. 4 St. Marys moved on with a forfeit win over three-time defending state champ and No. 13 Wheeling Central, No. 5 Midland Trail avenged a regular season loss to No. 12 Buffalo (another Ravenswood opponent), but not the way it had hoped, No. 11 Tolsia advanced past No. 6 Williamstown (another Ravenswood foe) and No. 16 Tygarts Valley (another Ravenswood opponent) is advancing after No. 1 Tug Valley was shut down.
In case you weren’t counting, Ravenswood met five teams – Ripley, Clay, Ritchie County, Williamstown, Buffalo and Tygarts Valley that reached the playoffs.
Ripley had one in Spring Mills.
RELIVING RIPLEY’S BIG MOMENT: When Elkins stormed into Sissonville’s Joe Sawyers Field Friday night and came away with a 42-27 victory (its first-ever playoff win) it certainly brought back some great memories for Ripley Viking fans in terms of a No. 16 beating a No. 1 seed.
The last time it occurred, and the only time at the Class AAA level, was in 1997 when the No. 16 Vikings of the late Frank Marino defeated No. 1 Morgantown in a first round opener at Pony Lewis Field in Morgantown, 24-21.
The 1996 Class AA playoffs saw No. 16 Tucker County eliminate No. Grafton right out of the gates.
In 1995, Musselman ended up winning the Class AA state championship as a No. 16 seed. The Applemen knocked off No. 1 South Harrison in the first round to get its incredible Cinderella run going.
Before the playoff field moved to its current number of 16 qualifiers, there were fields of eight, four and at one time only two.
In 1973 during the four-team format, Class A No. 4 Monongah topped No. 1 Ansted. The game was played right here in Jackson County at Ripley’s Memorial Stadium.
REMEMBERING BOB BARNETTE: Marshall Hall of Famer Bob Barnette recently passed away in Florida at the age of 77.
Barnette was Marshall’s wrestling coach from 1972-79.
In the 29-year history of the Thundering Herd wrestling program (which no longer exists), Barnette led Marshall to six winning seasons. He owns virtually every coaching record at Marshall for the sport of wrestling.
One of his former wrestlers was none other than current Ripley High School head football coach Steve Sayre.
“He was a great guy,” Sayre said of his collegiate coach. “He got me my first job at Fairland High School (in Proctorville, Ohio).”
Besides football, Sayre has enjoyed a great career as a wrestling coach working at Fairland, Washington Court House, Ohio, Marietta, Ohio and Ripley.
Barnette was well-know for his research and writing of sports history. His work included two television documentaries on the Ironton Tanks and Portsmouth Spartans (who became the NFL’s Detroit Lions).
I had the pleasure of meeting Barnette last fall while working a football game in Boca Raton, Florida when Marshall met Florida Atlantic. Barnette was at the team hotel to visit with friends.
When I mentioned my friendship with Sayre, Barnette’s eyes lit up.
You could tell he was proud of his former wrestler.
IRONTON FOOTBALL: While on the topic of Ironton football, the Tigers are state championship-bound once again.
The Ohio school located across the river from Huntington will compete for the Division V state title in the Buckeye State tomorrow (Saturday) at 2 p.m. in Columbus.
On the call will be Ripley’s very own Jason Philyaw. This will be Philyaw’s third time working a state championship game as the “Voice of the Tigers.”
Ironton, who is 11-0, will meet Kirtland, also 11-0, in a rematch of last year’s title matchup. Kirtland topped the Tigers in Canton, Ohio.
Philyaw is in his 22nd season calling Ironton football, which is one of the most successful and historic programs in the football-rich state of Ohio.
THE 75: Marshall’s latest football team did Saturday what others have been doing in recent years and that is win its game on or near the date of the November 14, 1970 plane crash. The tragedy killed all 75 passengers, including the football team and its coaches, 50 years ago.
Known as “The 75 Game,” Marshall handled Middle Tennessee, 42-14, on the 50th anniversary of the crash. The win moved Doc Holliday’s Thundering Herd to a perfect 7-0 on the season and lifted them to No. 15 in the latest college football poll.
One of the notable magical nuggets from the showdown with the Blue Raiders was the number of plays Marshall would run during four quarters of play…how about 75.
Ravenswood lost one of its own in the crash 50 years ago.
Allen Skeens was a sophomore walk-on center for the Herd.
One can bet Allen and the other 74 were smiling down from the Heavens above on Saturday.