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Ferry set to visit St. Clairsville

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — A lot of things have changed in sports — and the world — during the last several months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thankfully, one thing that hasn’t been affected is the spirited rivalry between St. Clairsville and Martins Ferry.

The two long-time foes will get together once again Friday night at Red Devil Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.

“Obviously, our kids are aware of this game and the fact that it’s become such a good rivalry is a good thing,” Ferry head coach Chas Yoder said. “We don’t prepare any differently though. We’re still taking it one week at a time.”

St. Clairsville’s preparations aren’t affected either. The one thing the Red Devils coaching staff — and head coach Brett McLean — has been making sure of with their team is keeping a level head. The Red Devils are the top-ranked team in the Division IV A.P. Poll this week.

“We have to be ready to play every week,” McLean said. “There are so many areas in which we need to continue to improve. Add in the fact that we have a dang good football team coming here and it’s an even bigger challenge for us.”

One of the biggest question marks for both teams is the status of their quarterbacks. Ferry’s Logan Smith has seen some time since suffering an injury in Week 1 against Shadyside, but Jack Weir has played many of the snaps.

On the other side, St. C. senior Tyler Tonkovich missed last week’s game after sustaining a leg injury against Wheeling Park two weeks ago. Junior Drew Sefsick stepped in and played admirably in Tonkovich’s absence.

“I have to commend Drew and the job he did,” McLean said. “He did a great job. Early, he was more in a managerial role, but as the game progressed, we opened some things up.”

Yoder and the Riders are preparing for both Red Devil quarterbacks. Tonkovich is an adept runner and has accumulated 174 yards and scored twice.

“Our guys have to be prepared to do their jobs,” Yoder said. “St. Clairsville has two good quarterbacks. Plus, they’re a big, physical, well-coached football team.”

Along with Tonkovich on the ground, junior Jacob Jordan leads the rushing attack with 324 yards on 50 carries. In the passing game, junior Colin Oberdick is the go-to-guy as a receiver. He’s caught 12 passes for 306 yards and 4 touchdowns.

While Ferry has its hands full worrying about the Red Devils’ size and depth, the Red Devils are concerned with specifically the play of senior linebacker Evan Carpenter.

Carpenter is the Purple Riders leader on both sides of the ball. He’s an effective option at running back and serves as a lead blocker for leading-rusher Chase Goff and fellow tailback Trevor Hanson.

“I see a lot of explosiveness from Martins Ferry on both sides of the ball,” McLean said. “Carpenter is absolutely top notch. He has a motor and is all over the field. I love the effort that that kid puts forth on every play. He jumps out when you watch them on film because he’s everywhere. There is a lot to like about that Martins Ferry team.”

The Purple Riders, who bounced back from their lone loss to Linsly with a win against Union Local last week, are venturing on the road for the first time in the abbreviated six-game, pre-playoff schedule.

“We have enough guys (back) who played last year where it shouldn’t affect how we play just because we’re going on the road,” Yoder said. “Our effort has been great all year, but we need to continue to work to clean up some of the mental stuff. We’re playing the best team we’ve played to date, this week, so we have to be ready for another big challenge.”

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