Playoff dream for Ripley football ends before it ever begins

Mark Martin
Viking's head coach Steve Sayre (blue jacket) looks on as his team takes the field against the Ravenswood Red Devils in the team's last regular-season game of 2020.

Steve Sayre knew his Ripley Viking football team faced a daunting task with the South Charleston Black Eagles in the opening round of the Class AAA playoffs.

The two were scheduled to meet this past Sunday at 3 p.m.

SC, a team possessing speed and talent galore, has been a convincing winner in each of its five games played in the regular season of 2020.

Still, Sayre’s team was up for the challenge despite limited practice time last week (due to COVID-19 restrictions) for the Black Eagles.

Like all others in the field of 16 for Class AAA, his Vikings dreamed of reaching Wheeling Island Stadium to play for a title in December. The quest in fulfilling such a dream was to start at SC’s Black Eagle Stadium.

The Vikings were looking forward to getting a chance as the No. 15 seed at pulling a big-time upset against Donnie Mays’ No. 2 seed inside Black Eagle Stadium.

Sadly, it would be Sayre's team to suffer the upset.

When the state of West Virginia’s color-coded map was released on Saturday evening (and put out later than usual) Jackson County was orange. And if, just in case, you haven’t been following the season of the map, then here’s all you need to know – teams in an orange (and red) county are prevented from competing in games.

Thus, Ripley's postseason and season, in general, suffered a quick ending...leaving all of those involved disheartened.

“It was upsetting for the kids and all of us,” said Sayre of the playoff game that wasn’t meant to be. “It was kind of one of the things you wanted them to be a part of and remember.”

Sayre’s team had walked on eggshells all week leading up to the game since Jackson County was already in orange.

By being an orange county the Vikings were unable to prepare full-go for their scheduled matchup with the Black Eagles. Not only is an orange county restricted from playing games but also from holding normal practices. All the sports programs in orange counties can do is condition.

And while there was the possible fear throughout last week of not getting to play, Sayre, his staff, players, school, and community remained positive the opportunity would come their way.

The hope was for Jackson County to get to yellow, green, or gold by Saturday...which as we know didn't happen.

“It was super difficult,” said Sayre. “But it’s been difficult all season.”

Despite the heartbreaking news of not getting a shot at competing in the playoffs, Sayre said he realizes his team was more fortunate than others in playing a nine-game schedule this season.

“We got to play nine games while some schools were playing three, four, or five games,” said the first-year Viking leader. “We had a good season. They went through what no other team (in Ripley football history) had to go through. I’m proud of them.”