PARKERSBURG - A revamped Parkersburg South defense accepts its first challenge when the Patriots host Ripley in the season-opener for both teams tonight at the Erickson All-Sports Facility, where kickoff is at 7:30.
South coach Mike Eddy was disappointed with his ballclub's defensive effort during a 2-8 finish last season, but the 2014 calendar year marks the second year under the current coaching staff. And that is one reason the Patriots are optimistic that opposing offenses won't have their way and average 42.7 points per game.
"Our defense was terrible last year," Eddy said. "It was embarrassing for me as a defensive coordinator and as the head coach. Obviously, I do take a lot of blame because at the end of the day everything comes back to my desk."
Parkersburg South running back Brendan Schwendemen tries to advance the ball past Ripley’s Issac Koontz in last year’s matchup. Schwendemen racked up 410 rushing yards in the 2013 game, a 47-35 South win.
South will receive a gauge right off the bat from a Ripley team that returns quarterback Trevor Tucker. During last year's 47-35 defeat to the Patriots, Tucker rushed for 249 yards and passed for another 127 yards. South also is targeting running back Jake Martin, who missed part of last year with a broken leg.
"Ripley has some talented kids who can run the football," Eddy said. "This will be the first year they've had (Tucker) and (Martin) on the field at the same time. Every year since those kids have been in high school, one of them has been injured."
Even more memorable than Tucker's output were the what is believed to be a school record 410 yards rushing produced by South's Brendan Schwendeman. Five carries resulted in touchdowns. This year, Schwendeman will move to a wing, while sophomore Zach Thompson gets the start at fullback.
"It makes me nervous putting a young guy like Zach in such a pivotal position on our offense, but through our two scrimmages he has really shown us from a maturity standpoint he is ready to play high school football," Eddy said. "He plays physical and run hard. He is able to make a guy miss when he needs to."
Joining Schwendeman in the backfield at quarterback is junior Garrett Gilkeson, who threw for one touchdown and passed for another against the Vikings. This season, Gilkeson has a 6-foot-3 target in Cody Boggs and a 6-4 receiver in Cole Day.
"We will have Day on one side and Boggs on the other side," Eddy said. "That adds a true threat to our passing game. Teams just can't load the box and take our run away because we have legit passing threats out there."
It remains to be seen whether South and Ripley will combine for nearly 900 yards as they did in last year's season-opener. Especially since Eddy has taken it personally about improving his defense and special teams.
Ripley's season resembled South's in that the season culminated in a 2-8 finish with opponents averaging 45.6 points per game.
"Those have been a couple of points of emphasis this summer," Eddy said. "We showed some signs during scrimmages, but we are still not where we can say, 'OK, we got it.' We still have a lot of work to do, and Ripley will do some things to put us in some tough spots."