PARKERSBURG -Semi-professional football takes over Parkersburg's Stadium Field with two games slated for Saturday.
A noon contest pits a pair of Ohio squads as the Lancaster Sabers play the Pickerington Wildcats in the Tangerine Bowl.
That same evening, the Midwest Bowl Series 'A' National Championship semifinal game will showcase a contrast in offensive styles as the Parkersburg-based Mid-Ohio Ravens battle the Cincinnati-based Tri-State Sharks. Kickoff is scheduled for 7.
In the course of one season, the Ravens under the direction of head coach Gary Shelton went from last to first in the Mountain State Football League after finishing 10-3.
"Last year, we started the season with 20 bodies and finished with 13, and you just can't be productive with those low numbers," Shelton said. "This year, we've been anywhere from 42 to 45 strong."
Behind the three-pronged running attack of Adam Rutter (Ripley), Jeremiah Reams (Belpre) and Nick Lawton (Washington, D.C.), the Ravens averaged 39.1 points per game. Both Rutter and Reams rushed for more than 1,000 yards, while Lawton eclipsed the 600-yard mark in just five games.
Shelton rotates John Gearhart (Parkersburg) and James Rutter (Ripley) at quarterback. His offensive line consists of Bobby Anderson (Little Hocking), Matt Clinton (Ripley), Jeremiah Borgan (Trimble), Brice Vickers (Hampton, Va.) and Chad Wright (Point Pleasant).
Lining up at wide receiver are former Ohio Bobcat George Howell and Chris McCorckle (St. Albans). Williamstown's Jordan Goode will play tight end.
McCorckle was named the league's player of the year, while Shelton was named coach of the year.
"Because of a shoulder injury we're missing our fullback Clayton Trimble, who had close to 400 yards," Shelton said. "That changes a lot of my plans on offense. We will miss him big time."
According to Ravens defensive coordinator Tony Cronin, his unit will be tested by the Sharks' passing attack led by quarterback Shaun Kirby and a core of receivers featuring Eric Morton, Derric Shearer and Leigh Gwin. Kirby, who was named player of the year for the Northern Frontier Football League's Cincinnati Division, threw for 490 yards and five touchdowns in a 57-47 win against the South Ohio Buckeyes in the NFFL's championship game Sept. 15 in Clarksville, Ohio.
"They run the spread and like to pass the ball a lot," Shelton said. "With the secondary we have, it will be hard to pass on us."
The defensive unit consists of Jeff Bedgood (Niagara Falls, N.Y.) and James Rutter at end; Josh Snider (Warren High School) and Jack Goode (Williamstown) at tackle; linebackers Aaron Parker (Georgia), Marcus Brown (Parkersburg), Bill Goog (Ripley); and defensive backs McCorckle, Lawton, Aris Nance (North Carolina) and Aaron Carpenter (Caldwell).
If the Ravens win, they return to Stadium Field on Saturday, Oct. 27 to play the Michigan Vikings for the title. Another victory next weekend would send the Ravens to the Sunshine Bowl Championship and Bowl Games slated for Martin Luther King weekend in Orlando, Fla.
"We were league champs, and if we win our next two games we get a national championship ring," Shelton noted. "Then we have a chance in January to get another ring. Most teams would be happy with one ring, and we have a chance to get three."
Admission for Saturday's games are $8.