Martins Ferry’s plan for this season? Try overpowering people. The Purple Riders have the talent, size and experience to make noise throughout the regular season and beyond.
Martins Ferry (11-2)
* Players To Watch – QB/CB Marco Ricchetti (6-2, 160, Sr.); TE/DT Jordan Burress 6-5½, 277, Sr.); OL/DT Dalton Leach (6-0, 222, Sr.); WR/OLB Cody McGee (6-3, 170, Sr.); OL/DE Josh Wells (6-3½, 255, Sr.); TB/ILB Patrick Allen (5-9, 227, Sr.); FB/ILB Devon Parson (6-0, 220, Sr.); WR Josh Nagel (5-8, 150, Sr.); DE Jack Beavers (6-1, 220, Jr.).
* Outlook – The Purple Riders were the top-seeded team in Region 15 last season after posting a 9-1 regular-season mark and winning the Buckeye 8 title in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference. However, their dream of returning to the Division IV state final four fell just short in a 21-14 loss to New Lexington in overtime.
Martins Ferry got by unpredictable Columbus Bishop Hartley in the first round with a 20-6 win at home and then destroyed Belmont Union Local 49-14 in Steubenville the next week to play the role of leading contender. But it was not to be against New Lex.
“That one stung a bit,” said longtime coach Dave Bruney. “But that’s playoff football.”
Bruney would know. He’s entering his 31st season at MF and he’s seen just about everything. His Purple Riders have been a state power many of those years and this should be no exception, especially considering the program’s regional re-assignment.
Martins Ferry is now in Region 13, where the landscape has changed drastically. In fact, some of the most recognizable and successful programs of the modern era have shifted out of the appointed area, including Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, Youngstown Cardinal Mooney and Steubenville, which all graduated up to Division III.
The loss of Steubenville nearly garnered a parade in some towns as Big Red has recent D-III titles to its credit and advanced all the way to the D-IV championship last season before being knocked off by Kettering Alter. Mooney, meanwhile, has been a factory for major college talent and SVSM seems to be loaded with athletes year after year.
“Steubenville and Mooney, when those teams are in Division IV especially, they are perennial powers,” Bruney said. “That takes two potential state champions right out of it. Certainly it does open it up.”
And the opening may just be filled by Martins Ferry, which has several key performers back on both sides of the
If nothing else, the Purple Riders are going to leave teams black and blue this season. They have immense offensive and defensive lines, several players who can bench well over 300 pounds and a pair of punishing runners who double as hard-hitting inside linebackers.
Allen, for example, runs with a low center of gravity and sheer force, which he also displays in the weight room with a bench press of 380 pounds and a box squat of more than 600.
“He’s pretty amazing,” Bruney said. “He’s got good feet and good hands and he’s tough enough that he helps us on defense, too. He played some defensive end last year.”
Also in the backfield and playing at linebacker next to Allen is Parson, another physical specimen.
Handing off to those two and directing the offense for the first time will be Ricchetti, who played wide receiver and corner last season. Ricchetti, who has 4.6 speed in the 40-yard dash, is one of seven new starters on offense but also one of eight returning letterman who will appear on that side of the ball.
Ferry’s 4-4-3 defense welcomes back six starters, including Burress and Leach up front. Burress is a Division I football prospect who also excels on the basketball court. Leach is a wrestler and the strongest player on the team. Wells, another hoopster in the winter, joins them on both lines and plays end on defense.
“With those three kids up front, we’re pretty good and pretty athletic,” Bruney understated.
Beavers, a rising junior, mans the other DE spot while McGee and youngster Michael Rose (5-9, 170) are expected to flank Allen and Parson as outside linebackers. The secondary features a pair of tall and fast defenders with Ricchetti and sophomore Tyrell Simmons (6-3, 185) along the back line.
Bruney is hoping the kicking game will be respectable with Allen handling the placekicker chores and Burress doing the punting.
Martins Ferry opens its schedule against three Division III opponents in Rayland Buckeye Local, Richmond Edison and Cadiz Harrison Central. The season debut game with Buckeye Local should feature a taste of revenge as the Purple Riders lost to that team on the road last season, 21-14, after losing grip of seven second-half fumbles and a 14-0 lead.
Apparently to ease the burden of that rough start and to add another home game, Bruney scheduled a Sept. 18 meeting with the Columbus Crusaders, a Division VI team.
Another supreme test looms, though, as the Purple Riders have to head to Belmont Union Local for a rematch on Sept. 25. The Jets also were shifted to Region 13 and could be Martins Ferry’s biggest obstacle to a run at the state tournament.
Other key roadies are against St. Clairsville, a 7-3 team last season, and rival Bellaire.
On most Friday nights, Martins Ferry may simply overpower foes. Extending the season all the way into December, though, will take more than brawn.
“From the neck down, we’re pretty good,” Bruney said. “From the neck up, I’m not so sure.
“Physically, we’re pretty good. This is one of the strongest teams I’ve had in all my years of coaching. But how well we do depends on what our team chemistry is, how much we trust each other and our attention to detail. If we do those things well, we’ll be in the playoffs again. If not, we’ll be average record-wise.”
Aug. 28 Rayland Buckeye Local
Sept. 4 Richmond Edison
Sept. 11 Cadiz Harrison Central
Sept. 18 Worthington Columbus Crusaders
Sept. 25 at Belmont Union Local
Oct. 2 East Liverpool
Oct. 9 at Wintersville Indian Creek
Oct. 16 at St. Clairsville
Oct. 23 Wheeling (W.Va.) Central Catholic
Oct. 31 at Bellaire