Not everyone in Marietta will be cheering for the Tigers to win when they play the Parkersburg Big Reds in a non-conference prep football game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Stadium Field.
Gene Epley is a town resident, and even was the Marietta College head football coach at one time before retiring a few years back. Fact is, the former Pioneer mentor will be doing everything in his power to see that the Tigers lose.
You see, he is the PHS offensive coordinator.
All that aside, and regardless of which school ends up winning the contest, you have to pull for Epley. Here's a man who has battled and pancaked cancer at every opportunity.
No, he's not cured, but he's back coaching football, one of the loves of his life.
"The Lord's been good to me," Epley said. "I'm taking it day by day.
"Last year, I helped Bernie (Buttrey, PHS head football coach) as much as I could as a 'consultant.' This year, he needed an offensive coordinator, and since my test results have been good, I knew this would be good for me, good for my mind."
A couple of years ago, coaching would've been unthinkable after Epley learned that he had a tumor on his pancreas. Back then, he was receiving treatment and spending more time in and out of the hospital than he cared for.
It was, needless to say, a tough time - not only for the coach but his wife Shelly as well.
Together, though, they've gone through the ordeal.
And, now...well, he's doing what he's always done best - coaching football.
This is actually Epley's second tour of duty as a Parkersburg coach. Before the diagnosis, he'd helped the Big Reds claim a W.Va. Class AAA championship.
He'd naturally like to help them win another one.
So, coach, what happened last Friday night?
"We let one get by us," Epley said matter-of-factly.
Parkersburg kicked off its season against the Brooke Bruins at Stadium Field, and dropped a 43-42 decision. The Big Reds had the lead in the fourth quarter but squandered it.
"We're better than that," Epley said. "We needed to score on our last possession and we didn't.
"We have some things we've got to correct."
Not too surprisingly, Epley's familiar with the Marietta Tigers.
"Andy Schob (MHS head coach) has some talented kids," Epley said. "And, I just love Perry Wheeler. He's one heck of a running back. He's a tough kid, and I'd love to have him on my team."
Wheeler rushed for a single-game, school-record 320 yards and six touchdowns in Marietta's 59-20 season-opening triumph over Morgan at Don Drumm Stadium last Friday night.
Thing is, PHS has a pretty good running back itself in Point Pleasant transfer Allan Wasonga, who gained 255 yards against Brooke.
"It should be a good game," Epley said.
Good to know that Coach is doing well.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor and can be reached at 376-5441, or at firstname.lastname@example.org