RIPLEY - Ripley's offense was held in check all night last Friday as North Pontotoc controlled the line of scrimmage to break away with a 30-7 win over the Tigers in the Div. 1-4A opener.
North Pontotoc (5-2, 1-0) forced a pair of fumbles in the first half and two turnovers on downs, helping their offense begin six of their 11 drives on the night in Ripley territory.
Four of those six drives resulted in points.
"Our defense has played well all year,"said North Pontotoc head coach Andy Crotwell. "They set us up with short fields and really got after it. I was proud of the way they tackled (Jamal) Brooks. He's a really good football player. I though we pursued well and gang-tackled. They gave us good field position on a number of occasions."
"The same thing happened last week," said Ripley head coach Sam Hathorn. "We couldn't get out from our own endzone. We turned the ball over after their first score and not answering was a big momentum swing in their direction. They kept us pinned deep. We couldn't stop the run and we didn't execute on offense. So it was a lot of things that went wrong tonight."
The Vikings took the opening drive 63 yards, capped off with touchdown pass from T.J. Polk to Tyler Hill for the 6-0 lead. Later in the first, a snap of the head of Ripley punter Dy’Quez Edgeston gave the Vikings the ball on the 8-yard line, where Polk scampered in the endzone one play later.
Ripley (1-6, 0-1) responded with a 59-yard touchdown run by Jamal Brooks on the first play of the second quarter. Polk’s third score of the game came with a 3-yard run that followed a blocked punt with 5:25 left in the first half. Kicker Gavin Dyer nailed a 22-yard field goal as time expired for a 23-7 lead at the break.
Polk finished the night with 178 yards from scrimmage.
"This was big game and we were anxious to see how he performed,” stated Crotwell. "He missed some throws but overall, I was pleased with how he protected the football. I like the decisions he’s making."
Hill added the second half’s only score with a 23-yard rush with 1:37 left in the game.
Brooks accounted for nearly 68 percent of the Tigers' output on offense including their only score. The senior running back rushed for 120 yards on 14 carries. Despite his big night, Ripley finished the game with just 83 rushing yards off of negative plays and five fumbles, losing two to the Vikings' defense.
Defensively, Brooks added 14 tackles and a blocked field goal to his stat line but Edgeston edged him out for the team-leading 15 tackles on the night. Cornerback Sentavius Hunt added an interception to go along with his four tackles.
The Tigers may be down 0-1 in the 1-4A standings but the goal of making the playoffs are still very much in play. Ripley's division boasts just five teams, meaning that one game could punch their ticket. Their best opportunity will come this Friday on the road at Tishomingo County. The Braves are (2-5, 0-1) on the season, coming off a 56-7 loss to Corinth in their 1-4A opener last Friday. Their two wins come against Belmont and Alcorn Central, who have a combined four wins on the season. A season ago, the Tigers whipped the Braves 45-14.
"We missed the playoffs last year so our goal going into the season is to get into the playoffs and that goal is still obtainable," claimed Hathorn. "We will try to go from there. Take it week-to-week. We will evaluate what happened tonight, correct our mistakes and then move forward to Tishomingo County. That's about all we can do right now."