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Ritchie, Roane football meet for first time in six years

SPENCER — Little Kanawha Conference groups that haven’t renewed acquaintances in six years will meet tonight. Ritchie County and Roane County are kicking off at 7:30 p.m. inside County Stadium.

The matchup comes as an unexpected meeting for both schools. Raider faithful along with head coach Paul Burdette and his group were originally scheduled to play in a big-time matchup with Doddridge County. Rick Haught and the Rebels were supposed to play Wirt County. Instead, the two were left without opponents as both Wirt and Doddridge were unable to play due to their status as COVID-19 affected counties.

Roane County AD Toby Ford and Burdette hit the phones hard once they found out.

“There were a flurry of phones calls from about 5 p.m. to 6 on Saturday night to see who we could play. Somewhere in the chaos we agreed we would play Ritchie County,” Burdette said.

“We were excited to play Wirt County but we are now excited to play Roane County and see how we match up. I think coach Burdette does a nice job. His kids are knowledgeable and well prepared. We respect what he has done with the program,” Haught said.

His Rebels have a chance to avenge a 58-10 loss to the Raiders from 2014 inside Chuck Schofield Memorial Stadium. They come into the game full of confidence according to Haught, the Rebels’ only two losses this year have been by a combined nine points. But last week was not one of those defeats. Not even close to one. An overwhelming 73-18 win over Webster County serving as an excellent warm-up. The kids production reinforcing to Haught and his coaching staff that their group keeps improving.

“As each week progresses, I do think we are learning more about ourselves and where we are at and are trending up and excited about some things. We did some different things against Webster. We tried to spread them out and throw the ball more. But we still need to be able to line up and run the ball sometimes,” Haught said.

Roane County comes into the contest fresh off breaking a three-week COVID lull with a 27-13 win over Grafton. The overall performance left Burdette confident as his group approaches a second game in one week.

“First and foremost I thought we played with a lot of energy and intesity. We left the Braxton County game with a bad taste in our mouth and that just wasn’t us. For whatever reason that happened and that is just the way it was. I feel we proved ourselves a little bit against Grafton and were are not done doing that yet.”

Burdette said he doesn’t think his team will be tired from the game against the Bearcats. He also thinks they aren’t going to look down on Ritchie County because the Rebels are a Class A team.

“In an ideal world you don’t want to play two games in a week but we needed to make some up and felt like this is what we needed to do. We had three days off and now just have to get saddled back up for the challenge,” Burdette said. “They (Ritchie) are a good football team no doubt. They are loaded with skill position kids and have a great scheme on both sides of the ball. They are very well coached and we expect a ball game. We aren’t in a position where we can overlook anyone. They have played some good teams and run against some good teams so we have to be ready for the game.”

Those skill position kids Burdette is worried about are wide receivers Gus Morrison, Graden McKinney, Blaine Bowie, full back Dakota Wayne and quarterback Ethan Haught. All of whom played big roles against the Highlanders, and likely will play big roles again in this game.

The Raiders also have the Rebels’ full attention.

“They seem to move well and do have some good skill kids and we have a challenge in front of ut. But we are glad for the opportunity,” Haught said. There are plenty of options Haught and his group must stop including quarterback Layne Epling, running backs Austin Hawkins and Briar Begler, along with wide receivers Ethan Collins, Skyler Delk and tight end Julian Summers.

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