ELLENBORO - The last time the senior members of the Ritchie County football left the field at Chuck Schofield Memorial Stadium they left on a sour note as Little Kanawha Conference rival Tyler Consolidated walked away with a 20-14 victory on the Rebels' senior night.
"Our last home game was a loss to Tyler," Ritchie County head coach Mike Dawson said. "The seniors got the team together in the locker room following that game and told them 'let's not leave it that way.' Now, they have a chance to erase that feeling with a win on Friday night."
No. 12 Ritchie County, now 8-3, will play host to No. 13 Robert C. Bryd (8-3) in one of four Class AA quarterfinal matchups slated for the weekend.
"It feels good, it feels really good," Dawson said following his team's 24-14 victory over No. 5 Summers County. "I'm happy for the kids. I'm happy for the community. We had a really good crowd follow us down there and they were very loud and very vocal. It meant a lot."
It also meant that the Rebels, thanks to RCB's 21-17 upset of No. 4 Frankfort, will play host to one of the four second round encounters.
"We're excited," Dawson said. "I'm not so sure the administration is as excited as we are-they have to worry about parking and getting the fans in and out of the game-but I have to believe that we will have a huge turnout for Friday's game."
Especially since the Rebels' foe-the Eagles-reside only 45 minutes away.
"I have to admit that I listened to that game (Ritchie/Summers) on the radio and I was rooting for Ritchie County to win because it went from a three-hour bus trip to a 45-minute bus trip," RCB head coach Bruce Carey said.
Despite the near proximity of the two schools, however, this will be the first meeting between the two under their present head coaches.
"I haven't seen them (Ritchie) play," Carey continued. "But, I've seen highlights of them on television every Friday night."
And, what the former-Bridgeport High School coach has seen is a Rebel team that has continued to improve following a season-opening 32-10 loss to No. 2 (Class A) St. Marys. A team with a legitimate dual threat in senior quarterback Alex Lipscomb.
"They (Ritchie) are like us," explained the coach. "They like to spread you on offense. But, they have a quarterback that likes to run and can hurt you as much with his legs as he can his arm."
The Rebels' signal-caller is coming off another impressive performance against the Bobcats. He connected on 13-of-20 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 91 yards on 19 carries.
"He (Lipscomb) is a player that the defense has to make sure they keep tabs on on every play," Dawson said. "But, if they spend too much time keeping an eye on him, we have some other kids that can hurt you as well."
Two of those are receivers Dylan Frye and Jayden Allender.
Frye has hauled down 24 passes for 565 yards (23.5 ypc) and six touchdowns while Allender has 19 catches for 444 yards (23.4) and as many scores.
"They like to stretch the field on you and they have the receivers to do it," Carey said. "And, if you aren't careful, they will get you thinking too much about them and spring one of their running backs for a long run or Lipscomb will take off for a long run."
Lipscomb, who has completed 89-of-189 attempts for 1,904 yards and 20 touchdowns, leads the team in rushing with 1,078 yards and 10 touchdowns on 153 carries. Junior Tyler Reed is next with 356 yards and three touchdowns on 70 totes of the pigskin while sophomore Orlando Burgy has contributed 153 yards and one score on 28 carries and is the team's placekicker.
"Our kids understand what is in front of them," Dawson said. "I would be very disappointed if these guys weren't prepared to play the best game of their lives when RCB comes in here on Friday."
The winner will move on to the Final Four round where it will face the winner of No. 1 Wayne and No. 8 Sissonville next weekend.