MARTINS FERRY – For coach Chas Yoder and his football team Martins Ferry, the 2021 campaign quickly turned into a nightmare in which the Purple Riders lost five of their initial six games, all to teams with at least four victories over the season already.
The task ahead on Friday night won’t be any easier as Ferry hosts a Wheeling Central team with a 4-2 record that appears to have hit its stride over the past two weeks, especially with returning starting quarterback Michael Toepfer. under the center.
The Maroon Knights started the season with a pair of wins before dropping back-to-back decisions to unbeaten Belmont County, Bellaire and Shadyside. However, since that time, coach Mike Young’s team have put together another two-game winning streak, including Weir High’s 54-27 loss last Friday.
Wheeling Central, who won the last three West Virginia Class A State Championships actually contested on the field, edged their last two kills by a margin of 103-48. The Maroon Knights did not suffer a loss in last year’s State Playoffs, but fell victim to COVID as the champions ultimately had to be named in all three W.Va.classes.
“The key for us is that we’re still ranked and in the playoff race and we’re still getting better,” Young said. “We lost to two pretty good teams and quality programs, at Bellaire and Shadyside and we were in both games. This group continues to work on technique and execution every day in training and we will be ready for whatever lies ahead.
“We’re the same old Central. These kids will continue to play hard-core football and we’ll be ready to make some noise when the playoffs roll in. “
After winning his first game of the season three weeks ago, Martins Ferry has since lost two in a row, including last week’s 26-14 loss to Indian Creek. The Purple Riders have allowed 27 points or less in four of their five losses, but have only put 34 scorers on the board in those games.
“We gave up too much in the first half last week and just didn’t have enough to come back,” admitted Yoder. “The most important thing for us is that we are trying to get healthy and get guys back. We still have three big games against good teams, but we’re taking it one game at a time. “
While Toepfer has done a good job leading the offense since his return, making 10 of 16 passes for 113 yards and four touchdowns, all in the second quarter, last week, the Maroon Knights’ rushing offense continues to be his. daily bread.
Seniors Cody Martos and Braxton Anderson as well as juniors Lorenzo Ferrera and Riley Watkins lead the way at Central. Martos and Watkins both rushed over 70 yards last week, Martos finding the end zone, while Ferrera added a 44-yard touchdown and Anderson hit a pair of 23 and 20-yard touchdowns, respectively.
Javon Miller and Caleb Ratcliffe also caught touchdown passes to highlight Toepfer’s big barrage in the second quarter. Senior Cole O’Neil also had a touchdown for the Knights.
“Wheeling Central is obviously a good football team,” added Yoder. “They’re pretty balanced with good speed in skill positions and a really good offensive line.”
Ferry’s main weapon on offense is junior George Hulsey, who has run over 500 yards and seven touchdowns. Freshman Ayden Ludolph and sophomore Baron Lucey both saw the time under the Purple Riders cross, with senior Peyton Hores the main target of the pass attack. Yoder’s crew was limited to just 24 yards on 23 carries last week against the Redskins.
“They’re probably the best 1-5 football team in the valley,” Young said of Martins Ferry. “They play hard, they are very physical and although they have five losses they have been there in some football games, including against a very good team from Linsly. Give Coach Yoder and his team a lot of credit, we know they will be ready to play.
“We still have huge challenges ahead of us, but we’ll take them one at a time and Martins Ferry is first. But even though we have some tough games ahead of us, this is the schedule we want to play. I want to play against good football teams. I don’t want to play against smaller teams that our kids don’t feel like they have to work so hard to prepare.
“It has been a season of ups and downs so far, but everyone has to remember that the season is not a sprint, it is a marathon.”
Martins Ferry has won two of the previous three meetings in the series, including a 27-13 victory in their last contest in 2019.