OXFORD - The Ripley Tigers used last Saturday, Aug. 17 to work out the kinks before this Friday's season opener. The Tigers faced Ruleville Central in a two-quarter scrimmage at Oxford High School and came away with a 7-6 win and with much to improve on.
"This time of year everybody is excited to get the season going," said Ripley head coach Sam Hathorn. "We've got a lot of opportunities to be successful and we are kind of looking at it that way. This was a glorified practice in a sense. This gave us a chance to check our conditioning and get used to referees and other things so we can get a true look of stuff that will go on in a real game. This was a good opportunity for us coaches to get film and see what we need to correct."
The Tigers' defense was solid throughout the scrimmage while their offense could not find a rhythm, excluding one big play. On their second drive of the game, Ripley faced third and 20 from the 50-yard line. Quarterback Tristan Vandiver found a wide open Sentavius Hunt streaking down the visitor sideline for the touchdown connection and the 7-0 lead with 6:25 left in the first quarter. From there, Ripley's offense could not get out of their own way, committing 10 penalties for 80 yards and had four turnovers. The Tigers had 105 yards of total offense on the day.
The Tigers' defense was able to lift the rest of the team, getting three turnovers on downs and one fumble recovery. Ruleville's Central lone score of the contest came with 5:13 left in the second quarter following a Ripley fumble that was recovered at the one-yard line. Ruleville Central elected to go for the two-point conversion and the Tigers came up with the stop that ultimately won the scrimmage.
"Defensively, I thought we played really well," stated Hathorn. "We have really worked on that. We got a good push up front. We have some bigger guys up there and so we want them doing a good job, freeing up linebackers to roam around and make tackles. But I thought we had a bunch of defensive lineman make tackles today. Josh Gray, I thought played really, really well and stood out. I thought we looked good in the secondary. (Ruleville Central) had some guys that were a lot faster than us but we were always in a good position.
"On offense there is a little more to it as far as getting them lined up, motions and that kind of stuff. Of course some of our big lineman were getting a little tired and started grabbing instead of moving their feet. That's something we will address at home. I was pleased with the big play. We didn't have that a whole lot last year. Toward the end of the game we were able to control the clock and run the ball effectively."
Tigers' eyes on season opener
Ripley will open the season this Friday with arguably one of their toughest tests on their schedule. The Tigers will play host to the defending 3A state champions, Water Valley.
The Blue Devils went 14-2 last season and while they lost a large group of seniors from their championship team, they still have a championship pedigree and return quarterback Jacob Truss, who's play sparked their playoff run a season ago, leading them to the title. Truss tossed four touchdown passes last Saturday against New Albany at the Oxford Jamboree.
"We are expecting their best shot," Hathorn said of Water Valley. "Yeah, they lost a lot but they have been winning with a bunch of different kids for a long time. The winning tradition that they have is unreal. I told our guys we haven't won a season opener in a long time (2014). A lot of that isn't their fault because they weren't in high school when that streak started but we want to get that turned around."
Ripley and Water Valley kick off at 7 p.m. on Friday.