HURRICANE – For the second time this season, the Ripley Vikings are coming off of a win. Much like the last time (a 34-0 defeat of Nitro in Week 6), the Vikings (2-6) must try to build off the previous week’s victory against a drastic step up in competition. In Week 7, Ripley faced the powerful South Charleston Black Eagles and fell 55-14. This time around, they travel to Hurricane to take on the 4-4 Redskins.
It’s been an up and down season for the Redskins, to say the least. After starting 3-0 with wins over Winfield (28-8), Nitro (63-18) and Riverside (28-18), the Redskins have stumbled to a 1-3 record over the past four weeks against the more difficult stretch of its schedule. The slide started with a heartbreaking 28-27 loss at Brooke, then continued with losses to Capital (49-28) and George Washington (32-14) before once again finding the win column against St. Albans (42-28). Then last week, the Redskins were unable to get anything going offensively against South Charleston, falling 14-6. With Ripley and #1 Cabell Midland remaining on the Redskins’ schedule, tomorrow night’s contest is an important one for both teams.
Even though Hurricane has struggled of late, they still have the capability to make things difficult for the Viking defense tomorrow night. Led by the senior running back tandem of Ethan Highlander (6-1, 220) and Connor Watts (5-11, 195), the Redskins use a punishing ground attack to wear down defenses and open things up for their passing game. Highlander has rushed for 729 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, while Watts does most of his damage in the pass catching department, pulling in 25 receptions with two touchdowns. Quarterback Blake Stover (6-3, 215, Sr.) pilots the Redskin air attack, throwing for over a thousand yards and eleven touchdowns so far this season. His main target is Nick Williams (5-10, 165, Jr.), who has caught 21 passes for 402 yards and four TDs this season.
When he’s not bowling over defenders on offense, Highlander is crashing through offensive lines and ball-carriers as the middle linebacker of the Redskin defense. Hurricane’s defense has been a strong suit as of late, no more so than last week when they held the high-powered Black Eagles to only 14 points.
Not surprisingly, Ripley’s game plan tomorrow night remains unchanged. The Vikings will look to control the clock by running the ball when they have it, trying to wear down a stout Redskin defense. Execution wise, last week was one of the best performances of the season by the Viking offense, as they gained 317 yards on the ground against Riverside. Better yet, the Viking defense put together their best performance of the year as well, holding the Warriors to only 7 points and 221 total yards. The Redskin running game will test the Vikings’ 3-5 look, particularly on the defensive line, which was a key part of the defensive performance last week. Sophomores Bailey Carr, B.J. Haynes, and freshman Caydan Keeler were all instrumental in shutting down the Warrior attack last week.
Offensively, the Vikings will again look to the running game to carry the load. Quarterback Chance Ranson has been on a tear the past two weeks, averaging almost five yards per carry 124 yards per game and two touchdowns. With Ranson as the big play threat, it allows the rest of the bruisers in the Viking backfield (Chance Morgan, Chase Morgan, J.T. Spurlock) to pound away at the defense. As a unit, the Viking rushing attack is averaging 285 yards over the past two games. Look for a more multi-faceted attack out of the Vikings tomorrow night.
Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. tomorrow night at Hurricane High School.