Ripley to battle Ravenswood for the Hatchet

RAVENSWOOD — Ripley head coach Eddie Smolder will be out for his second straight Battle for the Hatchet victory when the Vikings tangle with rival Ravenswood at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Flinn Field for Jackson County bragging rights.

Smolder’s final game of his first season at the helm of his alma mater turned out just fine at Death Valley Memorial Stadium a year ago as the Vikings rolled, 65-8.

For the Viking seniors, they won this affair two years ago at Flinn Field, 30-20. That group hasn’t seen a loss to the gang in red and black since they were ninth-graders when Ravenswood was victorious, 43-14.

“Ripley has a very good ball club,” admitted Red Devil defensive coordinator Jason Jackson. “The Morgan twins (Chance/Chase) are two great football players.

“They have a good line and a swarming defense that really plays hard to the whistle.”

While the Vikings (3-6) enter the fray fresh off a 55-13 romp of Roane County, which snapped Ripley’s four-game slide, Ravenswood head coach Kemp Kelly’s program will need an upset in order to finish 5-5.

The philosophy for a Ravenswood win, albeit not an easy task at hand, will be to stop the Vikings from their ground and pound attack. Ripley ran 51 plays against Roane County last week and finished with 42 rushing attempts for 280 ground yards and a 6.7 yards per carry average. Viking signal-caller Brayden Campbell might’ve only attempted eight passes, but the damage inflicted against the Raiders on his five completions turned out to cover 208 yards and a pair of scores — a 56-yarder to Anthony Jarvis and a 63-yarder to Rocky Ford.

RJ Evans was 2 stripes shy of a 100-yard effort, Dalton Myers rushed eight times for 88 yards and the Morgan twins scored a touchdown apiece.

Ravenswood, which moved down to Class A this year after being in double-A, is out of the playoff picture even with a win.

The Red Devils were behind the proverbial eight-ball from the start of the season when expected junior signal-caller Stephen Dawson’s family moved to Maryland. That situation didn’t help during the early portion of the campaign when the Red Devils lost their first two games to Wahama (26-14) and Webster County (24-15).

“The first two games really haunt us,” Jackson added. “We had Wahama with less than a minute to go with our offense on their 10-yard line and threw an interception.

“We went to Webster and left three touchdowns on the field so we really feel like we could have won those games with a couple breaks going our way. We knew we had some players still young and growing up.”

Ravenswood’s top offensive threat has been tailback Alex Casto, who has found the end zone 16 times and enters the game with 173 carries for 1,342 yards and 14 rushing scores for a 7.7 yards per carry average. Of course, Mid-Ohio Valley rushing leader Tyler May of Roane County was held out of the end zone last Friday night for the first time this season and was also limited to his first sub 100-yard effort of the season.

Casto, who is joined by wing back Hayden Mandrake as the only Ravenswood starting seniors on offense, has been aided by solid blocking all season from fullback Luke Jackson, who leads the Red Devils with 78 total tackles.

Max Hilton keys the Red Devils’ offense under center and is 20 of 44 for 364 yards and three scores. Jake Greene (8-153-2 TDs) has been his top target.

While both squads have solid kickers in Red Devil Ryan Cunningham and Viking Ryan Shatto, Ravenswood’s Ethan Mahan leads the Mid-Ohio Valley with six blocked kicks. He’s also registered eight sacks, forced a trio of fumbles and returned one fumble for a six-pointer.