ELLENBORO, W.Va (WBOY) – Just two years removed from the first state championship in school history, Ritchie County is ready to prove it’s among the best in Class A.

That mentality comes with a new man in charge as veteran assistant coach Jared Shipe takes over as head coach this season.

“As far as my staff here, we’ve been together for the past five years if not before, so we’ve coached a long time together and we’re just kind of picking up where we left off but the model’s not any different than it has been. Proven that it works so you continue on with what you know works and that’s what’s going to get you there,” he said.

The experience of winning on Wheeling Island is an important one for the Rebels, who are counting on juniors and seniors that were underclassmen two years ago to step up and be the leaders on this team.

“You can’t take those guys and expect them to understand the intensity of those practices without having been on that team, so we’ve got a lot of juniors out here today that were freshmen on that team that saw the intensity of those practices that now are carrying that into our practice now as juniors,” Shipe said.

Ritchie finished the 2022 season on a high note with all five of the teams wins coming in its last six games, including a four-game winning streak to end the season.

Carrying that momentum over into 2023 is part of the focus this season.

“We won five of the last six games last year. I think if we could have started off better it would’ve been a whole different ballgame. I think the intensity got cranked up toward the end of the season. I think we weren’t necessarily prepared for early season, but I don’t think that’ll happen this year. I think we’ll be ready,” senior Bodhi Utter said.

Now with a mix of veterans that have seen the highest highs and newer faces that are starting to find out what Ritchie County football is all about, the more experienced players on the roster are focused on making sure everyone is on the same page.

“t’s massive for us because we know what we need to do to get back to the end goal which is Wheeling Island,” senior Tristan Ginanni said, “For us, it’s about leading those younger guys that don’t have experience into those more difficult games and those ones where you really need them down the stretch.”

With a trip to the mountain top still visible in the rearview mirror, the Rebels know what it takes to win, and they have every intention of doing it.

“It’s going to be hard work. It’s going to be conditioning and it’s going to be getting back to our roots almost. Just working hard and hopefully finding success in that,” Ginanni said.

Ritchie county opens the first season of the Jared Shipe era on August 25, hosting Tyler Consolidated at Chuck Schoefield Memorial Stadium.