PARKERSBURG - Is this Parkersburg South's year?
Many Patriot fans believe it is.
They've been believing that since 2009, when a talented group of freshman athletes arrived on campus. This year, those freshmen are seniors. It's their last chance to lead South to its first state title since 2003.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Parkersburg South’s Jordan Quiocho rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season.
Last year, the Patriots registered their first playoff victory since 2003.
This year, South wants more. Its players end every practice with 14 pushups and sit-ups. They want to play 14 games.
The road to Wheeling begins tonight when Ripley visits the Erickson All-Sports Facility for a 7:30 p.m. contest. The Patriots and Vikings have made a habit of opening the season against one another and the results often have been down-to-the-wire contests.
Just look at what happened last year at Ripley. The game wasn't decided until the final minute. That's when South quarterback Tyler Bolen hit Braxton Johnson with a 31-yard touchdown pass with 34 seconds to play to give the Patriots a hard-fought 32-25 victory.
Both Bolen and Johnson are part of the senior class that has made Great Expectations the most popular novel south of the Little Kanawha.
In addition to Johnson, Bolen also will enjoy the services of returning first-team, all-state selection Logan Cox and senior Wes Mitchem, who is out for football for the first time. Both are three-sport athletes, as are many other key members of the Patriots.
That includes senior Jordan Quiocho, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year, when South runs the wing-T offense. This year, the Patriots are hoping to spread the field a bit more in order to take advantage of their team speed.
South isn't just strong offensively. The Patriots had one of the top five defenses in the state last year. Throw in an outstanding kicking game thanks to consistent placekicker Isaac Boles and the Patriots don't have a glaring weakness.
Meanwhile, Ripley comes into the game enjoying its biggest roster in years. Although the Vikings won just three games last year, the participation numbers and the enthusiasm are high.
Coach Jimmy Frashier, in his 10th year at the Ripley helm, has 58 players, the most of his decade-long tenure.
The Vikings are excited about the talent they have seen from sophomore quarterback Trevor Tucker, who will be making his first varsity start tonight. He has plenty of receivers from which to choose, including basketball star Kade Harrison, who like Mitchem is out for football for the first time.
That's not the only similarity between the Patriots and Vikings. Both teams and both coaches traditionally have liked to run the football. But South and Ripley are going to incorporate the passing game more than in past seasons, a testament to the level of talent on both squads.