It was well worth the wait.
In what is believed to be the latest home start (9:30 p.m.) in Ripley football history at Memorial Stadium, the Vikings managed to pull out a 34-30 win against the visiting Riverside Warriors.
Jeremy Harper scored Ripley’s go-ahead and ultimate game-winning touchdown from two yards out with just 16 seconds showing on the fourth quarter clock. The score was Harper’s third on a night in which he would rush for 204 yards on 16 carries.
The showdown was delayed two hours due to lightning strikes (each time lightning hits a 30-minute delay occurs) on Friday night in what was the home opener and first game on a brand new artificial turf for the Vikings.
Riverside now leads the series with Ripley, 8-5.
Harper’s TD run came after Riverside had gone up 30-28 on an 18-yard field goal by Cameron Powell with 2:27 left in the game.
“It’s the first time I have ever been in a lightning delay,” said Ripley head coach Eddie Smolder. “Our kids handled it pretty well.
“Our kids played with great effort and had the will to win. There were 10 different lead changes. We fumbled six times and lost three and had a punt blocked. We had a lot of adversity, but got the win. We’ve been in a lot of close games with Riverside.”
Powell got the scoring going in the see-saw affair with a 29-yard field goal in the first quarter at the 8:50 mark. Harper put Ripley in the lead for the first time in the game later in the quarter on a 13-yard run. Davisson Flint followed with the extra point.
Riverside regained the lead on a 54-yard from Javante Elzy to Blake Wentz with 3:44 remaining in the first half. Powell’s kick made it a 10-7 count. Ripley, though, responded just 23 seconds later. A long run by Harper got the Vikings near the goal line and R.J. Evans would then crash in from two yards out. Flint’s kick gave the Vikings a 14-10 halftime advantage.
Elzy’s arm put the Warriors back in front at the 8:03 mark of the third with a 13-yard TD pass to Thatcher Roy. Powell’s kick made the score 17-14.
On the next possession for Ripley, Harper raced 58 yards to the house for another go-ahead score. Flint’s kick had Ripley up 21-17 with 7:44 showing on the clock.
Riverside wasn’t done in the third as Elzy and Wentz hooked up with 4:08 to go in the quarter. Powell’s kick gave Riverside a 24-21 lead going into the fourth.
Powell stretched the Warrior lead to 27-21 early in the final quarter with a 23-yard field goal.
But the Vikings got right back in the lead on a 32-yard pass play from Cyrus Casto to R.J. Evans. Flint’s kick made it 28-27.
Riveside ran 68 plays to Ripley’s 52 in the game, but the Vikings had a huge advantage in total offense at 432-223.
There’s no question the Viking rushing attack was huge with Harper leading the way.
“He broke a lot of tackles,” Smolder said.
In addition to Harper’s monster game, Evans nearly clipped the century mark with a 91-yard performance on 15 carries. King rushed once for 26 yards, Dalton Myers had five carries for 21, Casto carried six times for four and Camron Ramsey had the ball in his hands once for two yards.
Casto was 2-of-7 for 41 yards and a TD while King threw a pass that went for 43.
Evans had two receptions for 75 yards. Dawson had one for nine.
The Viking defense was led by Josh Kay’s seven tackles. Cayden Keeler and Dalton Myers each had six and a half. Evans finished with five, Anderson and Justin Wheeler each had four stops. Jake Lawrence had three and a half. King, Matthew Moore and Kadin Hall all had two. Casto, Ramsey, Noah Westfall, Jameson Shaffer, Andrew Dolin and Chris DeFrank also had stops.
King had five returns for 105 yards. Luke Miller had one for 18 and Hall one for 13. King gathered in one punt and went for 11 yards. Flint had five punts for 148 yards.
Smolder certainly credited the Viking fans who waited out the weather to watch the exciting win.
Besides the Ripley faithful, former Super Bowl running back Ickey Woods, who was in attendance to promote asthma awareness, stuck around for the opening coin toss ceremonies.
During his playing days Woods was quite popular for his TD celebration dance known as the “Ickey Shuffle.”
Perhaps then it was fitting Woods was at Memorial Stadium.
For in the end the Vikings, who host Marietta Friday night, and their great fans were dancing in the rain following the all-important second win of the campaign.