QUINCY – Timely defensive stops and good offensive execution equated to the second victory of the year for the Ripley Vikings on Friday night, as they were able to score 21 unanswered points to defeat the Riverside Warriors in MSAC action. While Friday night marked the second time this season that Ripley tasted victory, it also marked the 22nd consecutive time the Warriors have felt defeat. Still, head coach Eddie Smolder and his players were understandably jubilant after the game Friday night, knowing that each and every win is precious.
“They played extremely hard,” Smolder said of his players, “We challenged them to give everything they got, and leave everything out on the field. A lot of our kids are exhausted from giving maximum effort, and that’s what we expect. They put it on the line for each other, and we’re extremely proud of them. I’m so glad they got to experience another win.”
Certainly, maximum effort and a never-give-up attitude are becoming hallmarks of the Ripley football program. Those principles were tested early Friday night, as the Warriors opened the scoring on the third play of the game on a 45-yard Quisean Gray touchdown run. But the Vikings took that shot to the chin and never wavered. On the ensuing possession, Ripley put together a methodical 14 play, 66 yard drive in which they converted on 4th down three times, capped off by a 23 yard Chance Ranson touchdown run to tie the game at 7.
From there, both defenses bowed up. The Warriors had several opportunities to take a lead, but the Viking defense would not allow it. Twice the Warriors had the ball inside the Ripley red zone, and twice the Viking defense forced and recovered a fumble to get the ball back to their offense. Likewise, the Warrior defense was able to take advantage of some miscues by the Viking offense, recovering two fumbles of their own. Ripley’s best shot came when they moved the ball inside the Riverside 20, but the drive stalled out on 4th down. Then, just before the half, Gray struck with a 65 yard run to bring the Warriors within striking distance. However, the Viking defense stood tall, and forced Riverside to attempt a field goal that went wide right. The score remained 7-7 at the half.
The Vikings wasted no time in getting momentum in the second half. Return man Hunter Stephens gave Ripley a shot in the arm with a big 65 yard kickoff return to open the third quarter. From there, Ranson again made a big play with his legs, sweeping around the edge for a 25 yard score to put the Vikings up 14-7.
The two sides traded possessions from there, but the Warrior defense struck again, recovering another Viking fumble. Riverside then drove all the way down to the Ripley 20 yard line, looking certain to tie the game with a score. However, it was not to be, as quarterback Cole Sigmon was intercepted by Ranson at the goal line, preserving the Viking lead. After making another defensive stop, Ripley took a 14-7 lead into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter was a testament to the Vikings’ conditioning and resolve. They bled close to eight minutes off the clock, pounding away at the Warrior defense on the ground. They converted another fourth down to keep the clock moving, and there was little Riverside could do to stop it. After driving all the way down inside the Warrior five-yard line, sophomore Ty Eshenaur put the nail in the coffin, taking the jet sweep around the corner and into the end zone, giving the Vikings a 21-7 lead. Riverside’s final possession saw them again drive into Ripley territory, but Sigmon fumbled the ball on a 4th and 7 and Ripley recovered to end any hope of a Warrior comeback. After that, the Vikings ran the remaining seconds off the clock to come away with the 21-7 victory.
After the game, Smolder heaped praise on his players for executing the offensive game plan. Ranson was again the lynchpin of the Viking ground attack, finishing with 145 yards rushing on 30 attempts and two touchdowns. The Vikings totaled 317 yards on the ground, held the ball for over 30 minutes, and was an astonishing 7 for 8 on fourth down conversions.
“Our kids are starting to get what we’re doing,” Smolder said of his offense, “It’s starting to become muscle memory. We just have to keep improving on the little things, the big things will take care of themselves. Our offense moved the ball well.”
However, Smolder saved his biggest praise for his defense.
“The bottom line is we pride our program on defense, and defense won this football game,” Smolder said, “We base out of the 3-5. Coach [Stephen] Sayre and the assistant coaches have done a great job getting our kids to buy in to playing hard, technically sound, gap control defense. When you do that, you have a chance to be a good defense. We’re starting to bring back some of the defense of old, and that’s what we’re going to hang our hat on year in, year out.”
Rocky Ford led the Vikings defensively with eight tackles; Chance Morgan had six; Chase Morgan had five; Caydan Keeler, three (two TFL); Bailey Carr, one and a half, plus a forced fumble; Jarvis, two sacks.
The win moves Ripley to 2-6 on the year, while Riverside falls to 0-8. The Vikings will look to build off Friday night’s win this week as they travel to Hurricane to take on the Redskins.
Ripley – 7 - 0 - 7 - 7 – 21
Riverside – 7 - 0 - 0 - 0 – 7
Ripley 353 – Riverside 221
4.6 yards per play – 4.9 yards per play
Rushing yards: Rip 317 – Riv 152
Passing yards: Rip 36 – Riv 79
Turnovers: Rip 3 – Riv 4
Ranson 5-12, 36 yds
Ranson 30 att, 145 yds, 2TD
Chase Morgan 12 att, 95 yds
Spurlock 12 att, 61 yds
Chance Morgan 5 att, 12 yds
Eshenaur 3 att, 8 yds, TD
Jarvis 2 rec, 18 yds
Sigmon 8-20, 79 yds
Gray 17 att, 99 yds, TD
Walker, 5 att, 70 yds
Mullins 2 rec, 19 yds