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On the Mark: Jackson County in past football playoffs; two great Vikings pass away: Column

Mark Martin
Special to Jackson Newspapers
Mark Martin

THANKSGIVING FEAST: I love football.

And for me, there is no greater weekend for it than Thanksgiving.

I’m not sure why but probably because I have experienced a lot of memorable games, both in person and via television, during this weekend.

It’s funny, but one game I didn’t get to see brings back fond memories at this time of year.

That game is the one featuring Ravenswood and Magnolia for the Class AA state championship in 1972.

I was a young kid living in Ripley. I saw that Ravenswood team play a couple of times during the regular season on its way to a perfect 12-0 record, which culminated with a 14-6 title win over the Blue Eagles.

While I didn’t get to go to the championship game, it’s as though my presence was there.

I can still hear my dad talking about how great it was for the entire county that Ravenswood captured the championship.

At the time, I didn’t think too much about the game being played on Thanksgiving Day. But as the years have raced by, the fact this game unfolded on Thanksgiving Day is the neatest thing in the world from my perspective. 

The two collided on a muddy turf at Memorial Stadium in Parkersburg that day.

A high school football playoff game in West Virginia hasn’t been played since on Thanksgiving Day.

And to my knowledge, it had never been done before.

The championship season marked the first year in which four teams reached the postseason in each of the three classes.

For Ravenswood to be a part of this historic state title game still means so much to the community.

The Devil team of 1972 was indeed one for the ages. It is one that will never be forgotten.

Ravenswood’s 1976 team would win it all a few years later to bring the state championship football count for the storied Red Devil program to four.

PLAYOFF MEMORIES: There was a time when playoff games in the state were rarely staged at home venues. But as the field of participants has grown (from four to eight to the present number of 16), all that changed. 

In this day and age, if successful and rated high, there's a good bet you will be at home until championship weekend in Wheeling.

I was blessed to see my share of postseason football at Ripley’s Memorial Stadium back in the day.

It all started in 1969 when Ripley played host to the Class AAA state championship game between Charleston High and Buckhannon-Upshur.

This was the year in which the new home side had been built at Ripley’s outstanding venue.

Those involved in choosing a playoff site decided upon the Ripley High campus to entertain these two undefeated schools.

Charleston’s Mountain Lions (now a part of Capital High School) and the Buccanneers staged a hard-fought battle. Charleston High emerged victorious, 6-0.

It was the second of three straight titles for the program under the late Frank Vincent.

The AAA title game was only the beginning of state championship and playoff games in Ripley.

In 1977, Beckley handed Fairmont Senior a 6-0 defeat in the Class AAA title game.

A week later, the Class A championship took place at Ripley (the game had been postponed a week when the original site fin Summersville had been hit hard by snow and couldn’t be used). Mannington (now a part of North Marion and the alma mater of long-time Ravenswood coach Mick Price) defeated the Pineville Minutemen. Pineville featured a terrific running back in Curt Warner, who was a junior.

Warner moved on to fame at Penn State and in the National Football League. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

The state’s top running back award is named in his honor.

In 1978, Ripley again hosted the Class A title game. Duval (now a part of Lincoln County) defeated Doddridge County.

Several other playoff games have been played in Ripley. And, the homestanding Vikings have even had the luxury of hosting games in which they were competing.

Memorial Stadium is quite simply one of the best the state of West Virginia has to offer.

REMEMBERING TWO GREAT VIKINGS: It saddens me to write about those passing away who left their mark as athletes here in Jackson County.

Ripley High lost two of its best in recent days.

Going to Viking basketball games as a young boy, the Ripley Health Center seemed to be a giant arena.

I loved looking at the lights, the sound of the ball bouncing off the wooden court and getting chills as the pep band played.

And, of course, the action on the court left me mesmerized. I had a lot of favorite players.

One of those was Greg Durback. Affectionately known as “Bones,” Durback was a tough player for the Vikings. He passed away recently following an extended illness at the age of 67.

In the fall of 1973, Ted Motes became the first Mr. Viking of the modern era.

During halftime ceremonies, the school had for years crowned a Miss Viking. But only once prior to '73 had there been a Mr. Viking recognized.

Motes was a low-key individual who certainly didn’t enjoy all the recognition that came with it, but he handled it with class and dignity.

He excelled in football, wrestling and baseball at Ripley. Motes, who died recently after a long illness at age 65, enjoyed a lineman's dream in a game against old Montgomery High School during his playing days. He recovered not one, but two fumbles in the end zone for touchdowns.

Durback and Motes lived and worked in Jackson County during their adult lives.

Durback spent many years with the City of Ripley while Motes was a popular area dentist.

These two will be tremendously missed by their loving families and countless friends.

RIP to both as they enter the blue and white Heavens above.