BIDWELL, Ohio — It’s been 14 years, but Gallia County is about to get reaquainted with itself.
Gallia Academy picked up a 10th game for the 2015 football season, and the Blue Devils can thank in-county rival River Valley for making that happen as the two programs have officially signed off on a Week 2 contest this fall at RVHS.
The Raiders entered the 2015 campaign with a Week 2 affair at Ross Southeastern, while GAHS did not originally have an opponent for the second week — due mainly to the Blue Devils trying to accomodate two different leagues (SEOAL and OVC) in conference play.
However, after numerous discussions between now third-year River Valley athletic director Richard Stephens and a pair of GAHS athletic directors over the last 12 months, the two schools discussed the local benefits of having each other on the gridiron schedule for 2016 and 2017.
As the discussions more recently intensified, Stephens and new GAHS athletic director Rich Corvin realized that making this game happen now would really be in the best interests of all parties involved — with Gallia County primarily in mind.
“Last summer, (then GAHS AD) Brent Simms and I started having discussions about a Week 2 opening that we both had in 2016. We went ahead and scheduled a home and home series and that was it,” Stephens said. “Then, when Gallia Academy decided to join the OVC late last year, their Week 2 game came open again for this year and we started conversations about beginning the series now.
“We have struggled to find Week 10 games the past few years for a non-league contest, which is why we are headed to Shadyside this year. It also meant that we had six road games and four home games for 2015. Economically, this makes more sense for us because now we have five home games and get to host what will probably be a big Gallia County crowd in Week 2. Plus, Gallia Academy now has 10 games this year, so everyone wins locally.”
In order for these new developments to take place, River Valley had to get in contact with both the OHSAA and Ross Southeastern in regards to getting out of its original Week 2 contract. RVHS was notified that the contract could be bought out for a sum in excess of $6,000 — which in turn heads to SEHS for lost revenue from the original Week 2 game.
The Raiders, coincidentally, defeated Southeastern in their Week 2 opener last fall by a 34-6 count. The Panthers were also winless (0-10) during the 2014 campaign.
RVHS, however, was fortunate in not getting stuck with the bill — and this is where the story takes a very proud turn within the community.
Both schools and athletic directors joined forces in talking with community leaders and the people with Ohio Valley Bank. OVB ultimately came up with a plan and the funds to allow RVHS to open up its Week 2 schedule while also giving Gallia Academy a full slate of games this fall.
“I can tell you that when Rich Corvin started as AD, we were very much in regular contact and meeting with people while trying to make this game happen,” Stephens said. “It took a lot of effort from both of us and our schools, but it happened — and we all have Ohio Valley Bank to thank for that. They stepped up and helped us get out of our contract with Southeastern so that this game could be played. They helped renew this county rivalry.”
It’s been since Week 7 of the 2001 campaign that two Gallia County programs faced off in a regular season game on the gridiron, which the Blue Devils won by a 56-0 count over River Valley. GAHS is 9-1 all-time against the Raiders, with the lone RVHS victory coming in Cheshire back in 1996.
Corvin was very praiseful of the efforts by the folks at River Valley, noting that without them — GAHS would still have an open date on this year’s schedule. He also believes that this game will be bigger and better for everyone involved, which should serve as a benefit to Gallia County moving forward.
“It was a lot of hard work, but I have to tip my hat to Richard Stephens and everyone up there at River Valley that helped make this happen,” Corvin said. “Obviously, it’s a big monkey off of our back getting that 10th game this year, but I also think that having that little extra incentive to want to win the ‘county game’ is something that every high school kid wants to experience.
“It’s a win-win for all the kids at River Valley and Gallia Academy, as well as those communities, those schools and the county. That’s what will make this special. It’s something that almost all of Gallia County can take an interest and a pride in.”
Corvin also noted that the Gallia Academy community was both humbled and appreciative for the efforts made by Ohio Valley Bank.
“Before the game takes place, Ohio Valley Bank is definitely the most valuable player in this thing. They were the ones that made it happen from the financial side, and I know both schools are very appreciative for them helping to make this a reality,” Corvin said. “Knowing how big they are in the county and how much they support the communities they serve, it will be nice to have them serve as the official game sponsor that night. It’s just another feather in their cap.”
Along with several other supported causes within the tri-county area, Ohio Valley Bank also currently holds the naming rights for the new outdoor athletic complex at Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School in Point Pleasant, W.Va.
Obviously the communities, schools and administrators are happy with these recent developments, and the head coaches of each program are pretty much on the same level with everyone else.
Jerrod Sparling enters his fifth season as Raiders head coach. He’s endured two different leagues during his tenure at RVHS, but says this is the closest thing to a rivalry game that he has known while leading the Silver and Black.
“It’s really exciting for us in a lot of ways. We always felt like the odd man out in the OVC because we were so far away from everyone else location-wise,” Sparling said. “We’ve never really felt like we’ve had a true rivalry in either the OVC or even now in the TVC Ohio. For something local and this close to home, it is something really exciting for our program and allows the county to take pride in its kids. It’s something that all of these kids are going to remember forever.”
Second-year GAHS head coach Josh Riffe agrees with his counterpart that the kids will really enjoy taking part in this matchup and these memories. He also hopes that this Week 2 game is just the beginning of something that won’t disappear anytime soon.
“It is big for the community as a whole and is a game that should be played every year,” Riffe said. “The players are excited to get to play against guys that they know off the field, which adds an extra amount of rivalry to this game.”
The other added feature to this Week 2 contest is that it will be played on a Saturday night, with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Not only does Saturday night allow the other Gallia County school district (South Gallia) the opportunity to take in the game, but it also allows most of the surrounding areas to come and be part of the event.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.