Season review: Ripley High School Viking boys soccer team had its ups and downs in 2021

Mark Martin
Special to Jackson Newspapers

The 30th anniversary of Ripley High School boys soccer was one of swift changes that prevented consistency night in and night out.

“It’s been like Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde,” said second-year head coach Victor Boyce.

COVID-19 reared its ugly head once again in the 2021 campaign.

“It seemed like the guys never had all of the team together for a single game,” Boyce said.

“We were small in numbers once more. We had 18 on the roster but played several games under that number.”

Ripley played one game with just 12 dressed and several others with only 14.

The Vikings finished at 6-8-1. Ripley had back-to-back wins to start the season over Princeton and Cabell Midland. The Vikings also defeated University and Oak Hill, avenged a loss to Parkersburg and defeated Lewis County.

Besides a loss to the Big Reds, Ripley fell to Athens, George Washington, St. Albans, Hurricane (twice), Capital and Huntington.

Boyce must bid farewell to a great group of seniors in Noah Kessell, Jake Harvey, Carter Cochran, Wyatt White and Sam Cox.

“Noah led the team in scoring this year with 11 goals,” said Boyce. “He really dedicated himself to becoming better and more offensive-minded.

“Jake ended his high school career by leading the team in assists once again with six. He stayed motivated each day and tried his best to encourage his teammates.

“Carter once again did the work that there really isn’t stats for and did it without complaints. I’m proud most that he took the younger defenders under his wing and showed them how to run the backline.

“Wyatt is very smart, very competitive, but struggled with some nagging injuries all year.

“Sam is a great guy, hard worker and gives his all and best when he’s out there.”

Three players — Jacob Banton, Nic Hill and Davis Epling — made up the junior class.

Banton was a vital cog. “He found his way on the field every day and made his time count. He was a warrior of the defensive backline and even contributed with a goal this season.

“Nic Hill had a very unfortunate season. He was coming off a stellar sophomore campaign and looked at cementing a great career as a Viking goalkeeper. He was injured early in the season and battled it. He came back and took on a different injury in the GW game and was never able to regain his form from 2020.

“I know that Jacob wants to be a dominant player, Nic wants some redemption from this year and Davis (Epling) is hungry to prove himself."

The sophomore class consisted of Max Meadows, Levi Casto, Jeremiah Casto and Parker Cobb.

“The sophomore class has a lot of talent and leaders for the program,” Boyce said.

“Max is a standout player. His ability to handle the ball and take on opponents makes him a player that other teams have to worry about.

"Jeremiah is a true work horse, the backline anchor on defense. He is so humble about his role. 

"Levi came into the season with the idea of working to be an everyday defensive player, then due to (Hill’s) injury found himself thrown into the everyday goalkeeper role. 

"Parker plugged himself in and did whatever the team needed done.”

Boyce looks forward to seeing what this group can do over the next two seasons.

“They are such good teammates and talented players with great field awareness and vision.”  

Six freshmen joined the varsity this season in Anthony Bertagnolli, Jake Holmes, Braxton Tabor, Mason Gandee, Maddox Waybright and Brandon Sias.

“We are so blessed to have them in our program,” said Boyce. "These young players will be great for us over the next three years. I can’t wait to see them grow and learn our system. They all received playing time. Two became full-time starters.”

Boyce said this of Bertagnolli. “Anthony stepped up and found his way into the starting 11. His speed, ball-handling ability and pure talent made him a great fit. He finished his freshman season with one goal and three assists. He has a world of potential and will continue to improve. The sky is the limit for him. He will be a person to keep an eye on for years to come.”

Boyce said the same about Holmes in terms of the future.

“Jake is a natural player with quick feet and field awareness. He will be a cornerstone for use to build with.”

Boyce said the best plans don’t always work out the way one hopes in the world of athletics.

“You have to step back, adjust and keep going,” he said.

He praised his seniors.

“All five had had their own impact on the team in different and special ways,” he said. “I’m really happy we were able to play and honor our school each day on the soccer pitch.”

Boyce is looking forward to season No. 31.

“We are young and will be fun to watch once again.”