ELLENBORO-There's nothing like a rivalry to get the blood stirring.
But playing that contest to open your season can have both good and bad effects. A win can catapult your program toward a possible playoff berth while a devasting loss can result in an early season losing streak which ends all hope of postseason play.
That's the quandary facing head football coaches Mike Dawson of Ritchie County and Jodi Mote of St. Marys as the Blue Devils travel to Chuck Schofield Memorial Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. showdown with the Rebels on Friday.
"It (playing a rival) probably makes since," Dawson explained. "When you play that first game everybody comes out to see. So, from an economic view, it makes since. I think it makes it easier, but you're just so limited on time for such a big game."
Two years ago a 38-22 victory catapulted Dawson's squad to a 5-0 mark to open the campaign and an eventual postseason berth in the Class AA playoffs. Last year, however, witnessed Mote's Blue Devils jump out to an 18-0 lead en route to opening the season with an emotional, 24-15, victory over their neighbors to the east.
Both teams are coming off playoff appearances in 2012. St. Marys reached the second round of the Class A playoffs before bowing out with a 10-2 mark following a 29-14 loss to eventual state runner-up Madonna while Ritchie County played host to its first postseason encounter in more than a decade, but came out on the short end of a 31-7 decision to Nicholas County.
And both return a substantial number of standouts from those playoff squads. The Blue Devils bring back seniors Noah Spitzer and David Gray while the Rebels return senior Dylan Frye and junior Tyler Reed.
Spitzer rushed for 133 yards on 17 carries and Gray added 103 yards on 18 totes of the pigskin as St. Marys controlled the line of scrimmage with 329 yards and four rushing touchdowns.
Frye led Ritchie County with 34 catches for 493 yards and six touchdowns while Reed rushed for 404 yards and four touchdowns on 67 carries.
"I'm just an old fullback by position," Mote said. "So, I like running the football. But, when you are playing a rival on the road, it can help to take the crowd out of the game if you can control the football."
The game will feature two new quarterbacks, however.
Taking over the signal-calling duties for the Rebels will be senior Alex Lipscomb, who helped engineer Ritchie's 38-22 win two years ago when then-starting quarterback Trevor Shepler went down with a season-ending injury.
"I really didn't have a lot of time to think about it," Lipscomb said. "It was like the eighth play of the game. I had played some quarterback in the scrimmages, but it was decided that I could help the team more at receiver."
Just who will be taking over the offense for the Blue Devils for the graduated Andrew Cosper probably won't be known until kickoff. Junior Michael Stout and sophomore Wesley Parsons were locked in a tight battle throughout the summer.
"We had our last scrimmage halted by lightning so we still have a lot of decisions heading into our opener," Burnside said. "South Harrison has 14 seniors on their roster and we know they will want to get some payback for the last two years."
Doddridge County has some solid players coming back from its 6-4 squad of a year ago led by running back Wyatt Ford and quarterback David Lipscomb.