Viking football working with close to 50 players

Mark Martin
Jackson Newspapers

When becoming the head coach of a high school sports program, there will always be challenges.

Steve Sayre has had his share and then some since taking over Ripley Viking football.

But Sayre has been meeting the challenge head on along with his staff and players.

The challenge, that is, of COVID-19.

In normal times, this would be the final week of relaxation, if you will, for high school football players.

The last phase of preseason work usually begins the first week in August leading up to football openers at the end of the month.

With COVID-19 still in our midst, things have changed quite a bit.

But the good news is teams are still getting to hone their skills with the hope there will be a season.

In West Virginia, the true definition of an August camp won’t start until August 17.

Seasons aren’t slated to get underway until the first weekend of September.

But the three-week July practice period (normally in June) has been a success for Sayre, a former Viking standout whose career includes a six-season coaching stint at Marietta High School.

His Vikings were scheduled to go three more days this week (Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday). A decision was set to be made later in the week as to what will happen in early August.

In West Virginia, schools are granted six “flex days” that can be used for additional work.

Since Ripley, and others, couldn’t use any of those in the spring or summer, the first two weeks of August may be a good time to cash them in.

On Sunday night, Sayre said he was still waiting for clarification on a few items before unveiling plans as to what his team might do during that time.

“Those six alone would change our practice plans,” he said.

This coming school year, athletic teams will be granted 12 “flex days.”

Conditioning and weightlifting have been emphasized quite a bit in July by Sayre and his coaching staff.

“Losing all that time in the weight room really hurt,” Sayre said. "We're behind in that aspect compared to an experienced team."

All in all, he’s been pleased with the work he has witnessed from his first Viking crew.

“Things have gone as good as could be expected,” Sayre said. “The kids are really working hard.”

There have been adjustments to workouts that no one ever saw coming.

“Wearing masks, signing in,” Sayre said of some added measures to workouts. “We have not been inside (the weight room).”

The Viking leader noted that his workouts have averaged “in the high 40s” and are likely to stay there.

“I’m happy with that,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is going to walk in off the street and join us. So, we are going to go with what we have.”

Having lost double-figure seniors for a second straight year, Ripley will field a young football team this season under Sayre, a long-time assistant coach to both Jimmy Frashier, who is now the school’s principal, and Eddie Smolder, who has joined the staff at Cabell Midland High School.

By missing out on that last part of August to open the season, all West Virginia teams will try to squeeze in 10 games in 10 weeks. If they were lucky enough to pick up a 10th game.

Ripley was one of those that did.

With the season opener being wiped out against Brooke, and the two not having the same open date, the Vikings have since joined forces with Lewis County for the first-ever meeting on September 18. The Minutemen will travel to Memorial Stadium that night.

Sayre knows there are many stones still to be turned over in the coming weeks, but he said his team will stay the course and just keep working with the thought being to see action on the field.

“It’s going to be an interesting situation,” he said. “Everybody is in the same boat.”

Steve Sayre’s Vikings want to guide their ship to success in 2020.

Just getting to play games would definitely be a start.