KOSSUTH - The Ripley Tigers football team was motivated last Friday. That extra bolt of energy led to a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter in which the Tigers used to hold on to clinch a 23-13 win on the road for their first win of the young season.
Ripley's motivation came from tragedy. On Friday, Aug. 23, two Ripley teens, Christopher Alex Hogue and Christopher D. Wooten, both passed away in an automobile accident in New Albany as the Tigers were wrapping up their 14-13 loss to Water Valley on the same night. Two classmates, one being a former teammate (Wooten), gone in a blink of an eye and still fresh on the minds of the players as they took the field a week later.
Ripley notched a 14-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, using a fumble recovery from Sentavius Hunt to set up a 16-yard touchdown run from senior Jamal Brooks. On the ensuing kickoff, Kossuth fumbled again, this time recovered by Labron Vance for Brooks' second score of the quarter with 2:46 left.
"We came out emotional," claimed Ripley head coach Sam Hathorn. "We've had an emotional week. Our guys came ready to play in the first quarter. And on into the second, I thought we got kind of deflated because of the way we came out."
Brooks was one of the players weighted down with the burden of the loss of his classmates so he let all of it out on the field. Brooks carried the ball 29 times for 174 rushing yards and his two first quarter scores. On defense, Brooks notched double-digit tackles, including two sacks, a forced fumble and the game-sealing interception with 32 seconds left.
"I just had a lot of momentum and played with passion," Brooks said with a heavy heart. "When you lose a brother, you've got to do something in their honor. We had to show out for them."
The Tigers' defense definitely showed out in their performance against a Kossuth offense that put up 34 points in their season opener. Ripley forced five turnovers while limiting the Aggies to two touchdowns, both under the six-minute mark of the second quarter.
"Coach Rico (McDonald) put together a great game plan," Hathorn said of the defensive effort. "We talk about it every week, team defense. It's about 11 guys doing their job on every play and most of the time we do it. They fooled us a little bit in the first half on that trap play. We came in and adjusted and our kids played lights out. They didn't have any success on it the rest of the game."
Ripley's third touchdown of the night came at the 5:58 mark of the second quarter as Tristan Vandiver hit a wide open Hunt in the back of the endzone for a 23-yard score. The Aggies ripped off two touchdown runs from Kota Wilhite to only be down 21-13 at halftime. A shutout from both teams in the second half ended when Ripley linebacker Shaundell Carter sacked Kossuth quarterback Brock Seago in the endzone for a safety with 7:44 left in the fourth.
The Tigers will face yet another stiff competitor on Friday as they host the 2-0 Booneville Blue Devils. Booneville is fresh off a 38-12 win over rival Baldwyn in the "Skunk Bowl." For comparison, Kossuth defeated Baldwyn in the season opener 34-33. The Blue Devils feature on of the area's best quarterbacks in John Daniel Deaton and an explosive running back in Davian Price. Price rushed for 217 yards on 20 carries and scored five touchdowns in the Blue Devils' win over Baldwyn last week.
"I expect another physical football game. They have some big dudes up front," stated Hathorn on Booneville. "They have some good running backs and a quarterback, who is a lights out player. I don't think he's been lost a game yet as a starter. So they have a really good team and they are always well-coached. I expect a grind-it-out, four-quarter football game. Whoever makes that big play at the end of the game to seal it, I think will be the one who wins it."