RIPLEY - In his second year as head coach, Jeff Merritt had to meet many challenges in 2012. He had a team that lacked some experience at some positions like most teams do but he also had a new experience just around the corner.
Coach Merritt found out prior to the season that a young lady named Bronwynn Cox was trying out for the team.
"I have to admit that at first I was worried a little about how to coach her and I doubted her abilities. I am proud to say that I was very wrong. The whole team accepted her and she proved herself to all of us. Because of her, I welcome the opportunity coaching any young lady who wants to play football," said Merritt.
Ripley Middle School finished the season (2-6) with victories coming over Winfield and Barboursville.
In week four, Lane Casto had to step into the starting quarterback position due to a hand injury to Todd Withrow. It was his first year playing football.
"Lane did a good job for us and got better with every game. He exceeded our expectations. Todd became a clutch wide receiver and played very well at defensive end for us." added Merritt.
Casto threw four touchdown passes on the season.
BC and Casto were only two of the new faces on the roster. JT Rollins, Devin Hunt, Stetson Crowder, Ridge Dalrymple and Jed Westfall were new to RMS football and all contributed throughout the season.
A group of experienced players did return. Chase and Chance Morgan, Todd Withrow, Elijah Riffe, JT Spurloch, Anthony Jarvis and Nathan Hall will be sorely missed as they move up to the freshman team next season.
Chase Morgan led the team with over 314 yards rushing. Elijah Riffe racked up 257 yards receiving and two scores.
For the defense, JT Spurloch had 14 tackles for loss while Nathan Hall and Anthony Jarvis each averaged over 10 tackles per game in 2012.
Cody Slater, Cody Tolley, Riley Faber, Jacob Brannon, Philip Robas and Hunter Stephens were a collection of players that Merritt nicknamed the "Smurf Bunch" but he was quick to point out their toughness and the fact they played well when given the opportunity to shine.
I truly believe that I am a better person for knowing and working with (assistant) coach Jon Melhorn. He is great with the kids and a fine coach on the field," added Merritt.
Melhorn also looked back on the season with fondness.
"This was a great group of kids who work hard and have fun doing it. Despite our record, they improved throughout the season. We had a number of leaders on the team and I look forward to seeing them succeed in high school."