Friday nights. The covered grandstand. The horseshoe on the helmet. The Swing March. The memories of Lou Groza and countless others who've proudly worn the Purple and White. Tradition be thy name at Martins Ferry High School, which will celebrate 100 years of football during the 2007 season – one which figures to find the Purple Riders in the thick of things in Division IV, Region 15.
Friday nights. The covered grandstand. The horseshoe on the helmet. The Swing March. The memories of Lou Groza and countless others who've proudly worn the Purple and White.
Tradition be thy name at Martins Ferry High School, which will celebrate 100 years of football during the 2007 season – one which figures to find the Purple Riders in the thick of things in Division IV, Region 15.
As Dave Bruney embarks on his 29th year as head coach at Martins Ferry, he does so with a team team aspiring to continue the school's recent run in the OHSAA playoffs.
After many years of near-misses, Ferry has now been in the post-season party seven of the last nine years, including last year's team which posted an overall 10-2 record (defeating Wellston, 41-0, and falling to New Lexington, 35-14, in the Region 15 semifinals).
Ferry – a member of the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference (Class 3-A) and the Buckeye 8 Conference – figures to be an explosive bunch again this fall.
“Our biggest strength is speed and quickness in our 'skill' position players,” Bruney offered. “We've got four or five kids who can score from anywhere on the field, so that means we don't have to come up with a 15-play, mistake-free thing of beauty all the time.
“Our offensive line is athletic and it's bigger than last year and our attitude and work ethic has been very good. Physically, we are pretty good, so the intangibles will be very important for us to develop.”
The likely catalyst of the Rider offense is talented junior tailback Jeremy Murray, a 5-9, 177-pound two-year letterman. Murray enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign, rushing for more than 1,700 yards and adding 450 yards receiving while scoring a whopping 31 touchdowns.
“Other players work hard, but nobody works harder than Jeremy,” Bruney stated. “I don't think he's ever had a bad practice.”
Ferry will have a pair of athletic quarterbacks on hand, including senior Derek Edwards (5-8, 155) and junior Cheyne Forte (6-1, 185). Edwards, a three-sport athlete, excelled at wide receiver last fall with 45 catches.
Other 'skill' players to watch for Ferry include junior back Rawn Driver (5-8, 175), promising sophomore back Patrick Allen (5-9, 208); senior wideouts Fred Owens (6-1, 215), Mike Hammerquist (6-0, 195) and Chase Tucker (5-9, 175); and senior tight end Steve McIntosh (6-3, 215).
Up front, the Riders will feature the likes of senior Trevor Jackson (6-1, 232) at center; senior Lance Rossini (6-1, 220) and junior Steve Woodford (6-2, 215) at guard; and senior Ben Hores (5-10, 242) and either junior Courtney Henry (6-0, 230) or junior Danny Rhodes (5-11, 260) at the other tackle.
Defensively, Ferry returns six starters, including talented defensive backs Murray and Edwards.
Stalwarts at inside linebacker will be junior Matt Shreve (5-11, 198) – the team's second-leading tackler a year ago with 110 participations – and Woodford, with Owens as a factor at outside 'backer.
Along the D-line, Hammerquist, McIntosh, Jackson and Rossini should be solid performers.
Bruney achieved his 200th overall coaching victory last year. He is 191-98 at his alma mater and was 9-1 in one year at neighboring Bridgeport for a combined 200-99 mark.
Historically, as Ferry begins its 100th year, the school ranks in the top 10 in all-time wins in the state of Ohio with 617 victories.
Ferry's playoff appearances came in 1998, '99, 2000, '02, '03, '04 and '06, with the 2004 team winning the Region 15 title and advancing to the state semifinals. The Riders are nine-time OVAC champions as well.
“It's a tradition that really started in the late 1920s and through the '30s and '40s,” Bruney related. “At one time, there were 18,000 people in Martins Ferry when the steel mills were flourishing and the community really took football to heart and it's perpetuated itself.
“We've had a number of players distinguish themselves in both the college and professional levels over the years,” he added, “and I've been fortunate to be a part of Martins Ferry football for a long time.”
While the tradition of Ferry continues, Purple Rider football takes a big step into the future when the school's new ProTurf field (featuring purple end zones and large interlocking horsehoes at midfield) is unveiled in the season opener on Friday, Aug. 24 against neighboring rival Buckeye Local.
That night will also feature the 100-year celebration, with past Purple Rider gridders honored prior to the game.