PONTOTOC- Coming off of a bye week, the Pontotoc Warriors put together their best all-around game of the season Friday night to pick up their first win, a 20-7 Homecoming victory over Ripley.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game; they outsized us," said Pontotoc coach Jeff Carter. "We made some adjustments over our off week, changed our philosophy a little bit on both sides of the ball. We had to do something different. When things aren't working you have to look and find ways to push the ball down the field on offense and stop it from being pushed on defense. The kids accepted the changes. We challenged them to go out to put it to work, and they did a good job of doing that. We had some guys step up and make plays on both sides of the ball."
Behind a 24-yard catch and 12-yard run from Tres Vaughn, the Warriors (1-4) drove to the Ripley 21 yard line on their opening drive before the march stalled with a turnover on downs. After the defense forced a second three and out, Caleb Hobson broke free for a nice punt return to set the Warriors up the Tiger 28. However, Pontotoc was again unable to come away with points and turned the ball over on downs.
The PHS defense continued to play well. The Warriors surrendered a paltry 25 yards of offense to the Tigers in the first quarter, and Hobson intercepted a pass in early in the second quarter. Pontotoc was unable to capitalize on the turnover and had to punt, but Miles Galloway pinned the Tigers on their own 3-yard line. The Tigers were soon forced punt from the 16, and Pontotoc took over at the Ripley 44. The Warriors pounded away with tailback Jemarkus Whitfield, driving to the 8 yard line. Jolan Mills drilled a 25-yard field goal to put the Warriors on top 3-0 with 3:46 remaining in the first half.
The entire complexion of the game would soon change. With only 26 seconds left in the half, Ripley fumbled a pitch in the backfield, and the Warriors' Monte Townsend recovered to give Pontotoc the ball at the Ripley 36. After a sack on first down, quarterback Brice Deaton completed a 42-yard pass to Cade Armstrong to set up a 1st and goal. Whitfield scored on a 4-yard TD run with 5 seconds to go in the second quarter. A point-after kick from Mills made it 10-0 at halftime.
The Warriors received the second half kickoff, and a big run from Hobson keyed a drive that resulted in a 26-yard Mills field goal to extend the lead to 13-0 at the 9:33 mark of the third.
Later in the half, a Pontotoc punt from deep in their own territory resulted in a good field position for Ripley. After a 24-yard run from tailback Jamal Brooks, Brooks scored from a yard out to cut the PHS lead to 13-7 with 11:37 to play in the fourth quarter. However, the Warrior offense immediately responded. With effective running out the wildcat formation, Whitfield led a drive with 4 carries for 35 yards. Deaton then found Tres Vaughn open in the flat, who broke into the clear for a 38-yard touchdown that made it 20-7 with 8:23 to go.
Ripley subsequently moved to the Pontotoc 7 yard line before the Warrior defense stopped Brooks on a 4th and 2 to kill the drive. The Warriors then racked up first downs and ran the final minutes off the clock to close out the win.
"It was a good team effort in all three phases of the game," coach Carter said.
Pontotoc travels to Mooreville (4-2) to open Division 2-4A play on Friday.