RIPLEY--It's not a secret that the Ripley Tigers are contenders to hoist the Class 4A state title trophy this season. Currently ranked No. 4 in Class 4A, they get back on the gridiron tonight after their first setback of the season, a six-point loss to Rosa Fort that included lots of controversy.
With that in the past, the Tigers sit 8-1 (2-1) with two Division 2-4A games remaining. They host the Byhalia Indians (3-4, 2-1) tonight before closing with the "Hwy 15 Rivalry" against New Albany. They have a firm hold on second place and could secure that spot with a win tonight.
There is no such thing as a "good loss," but the turn of events may have been just what the Tigers needed.
Ripley coach Chad Cook naturally wasn't pleased with the loss, but said he has seen a more relaxed group. He thinks with the win streak, his players may have been making the game bigger than what it was. Playing with more pressure not to lose, if you will, instead of enjoying playing a game they love.
"It's not so much a sigh of relief, but I think my kids had got to where they were making the game more than the game itself," said Cook, who led Ripley to eight wins last season, there best season in three years. "I didn't see that after three wins in a row, I didn't see it after four. Even though we made mistakes, we were winning. Since, we've lost, they are back in their normal routine."
He said he didn't see a depressed bunch, but a bunch having fun getting back to the root of why they play on Fridays.
"I haven't seen mopping, head down, going through the motions," he said. "I've seen more of 'this is why we play this game--cause we love it.' I think it just got be where they weren't having that much fun, and I hate that as a coach. I want them to go out there and have fun, do our best and if we win, good. As long as we are doing everything we can."
Senior linebacker Alec Hobson called their game at Rosa Fort "a big humbling experience." He said it sparked something in all of them.
"We're on a mission now," said Hobson, who became the all-time leading tackler in school history this season. "We don't want to fell like that anymore this year. It's like the pressure is gone about staying undefeated. Now we're back to just having fun and playing ball like we should have been. We've gotten back to what got us here in the fist place."
Cook looking for dogs
As for tonight's game against the Indians, Cook said he's looking to see who will be a "dog."
"Which ones are gonna hunt? I'll know Friday. The only way you can get a bad taste out of your mouth is the next time you play," said Cook. "Byhalia is good on defense. They have some play-makers, but to me, it's about us. Is the dog gonna come out in you?
"Coach Rico (McDonald) told them a Pat Riley saying, 'Sometimes you have no choice in how you lose, but you do have a choice in how you prepare to win again. I'm anxious to see that."