RIPLEY – Despite a strong start to last Friday night’s homecoming game, the Ripley Vikings could not withstand the barrage put on them by the George Washington Patriots. The Patriots kept the Vikings off-balance on both sides of the ball, using a variety of weapons on offense and defense in an impressive 45-21 win.
Obviously, given the occasion and opportunity, the loss was disappointing for Smolder and his team. The reality, though, was that the Patriots were the better team on the night.
“Collectively, as a whole, we didn’t play well enough, bottom line,” Smolder said, “In big games–this was probably the biggest game our kids have played in, to be honest– you have to make plays and they made more plays than we did.”
Truthfully, things could not have begun better for the Vikings. They took the opening kickoff and put together a methodical, grinding drive that culminated in a 10-yard touchdown hookup between Brayden Campbell and Anthony Jarvis.
Up 7-0 and feeling confident, the Viking defense looked to have a big-time play when Jarvis went airborne trying to intercept GW quarterback Grant Wells along the sideline.
Jarvis couldn’t maintain possession on the play, though, which allowed the Patriots to eventually pound home the game-tying touchdown. From that point on, it was all Patriots.
While the game was tied at 7 after the first quarter, the Viking defense was simply unable to contain Wells.
The talented sophomore carved the Vikings up with designed runs, scrambles and passes, which opened things up for the rest of the GW running backs. Things looked promising for the Vikings on their opening possession of the second quarter. Junior Ty Eshenaur broke a jet sweep for a 42-yard gain all the way down to the GW 15, but the Viking drive stalled after that. To make matters worse, Ripley’s field goal attempt went wide left, leaving them empty handed.
On GW’s ensuing possession, the Patriots were moving into Viking territory when Ripley’s Chase Morgan stripped GW running back Jonathan McClung, allowing Hunter Stephens to pounce on the fumble and give the Vikings some momentum. Unfortunately, they were unable to do so, turning the ball over on downs after four unsuccessful plays.
That momentary lapse by the Patriots was quickly rectified, as they drove the ball right back down the field and scored on a McClung two-yard plunge to take a 14-7 lead. After getting another defensive stop, the Patriots closed the half with a field goal, sending the game into the break with a 17-7 GW lead.
“We ran the ball decent, but not as good as we have,” Smolder said, “We just weren’t getting it done at times. We moved the ball decent at times, but others we just got stalemated or whipped. Defensively, we played our worst game. They have a really good quarterback, but everybody knows that. The energy and intensity wasn’t there defensively like it normally is and that’s disappointing.”
With GW getting the ball to start the second half, the Viking defense needed a big stand. Instead, what they got was another healthy dose of Wells and the Patriot rushing attack. The Patriots marched all the way down inside the Ripley five-yard line, with McClung getting his third score of the night on a three-yard run to put GW up 24-7.
The Vikings’ ensuing drive looked promising as they moved the ball on the ground into GW territory, but they again failed to finish with points.
The drive stalled out at the Patriot 33, giving the ball back to the red-hot GW offense. Wells picked up where he left off, hitting Darnell Brooks on a 22 yard pass to move into Ripley territory, then scoring on an Aiden Johnson three-yard touchdown run after the Vikings jumped offside on a 4th and 3 in which they stopped McClung. Johnson’s TD made it 31-7 GW.
To their credit, the Vikings wouldn’t go away. They got good runs from freshman Dalton Myers and sophomore R.J. Evans on their ensuing possession and found the end zone on an eight-yard rush from Evans to bring the score to 31-14 as the quarter ended.
The story remained the same in the fourth quarter, with GW’s offense moving the ball at will on the Viking defense and the Viking offense unable to make a meaningful impact on the GW defense. The Patriots added to their point total with a 17-yard TD pass from Wells to Brooks and a 55-yard TD run from Brooks.
The Vikings answered with a 25-yard TD pass play from Campbell to Colton Kay, but it was too little too late. The Patriots were able to run out the clock on a 45-21 win.
For Ripley, it was indeed an up-and-down performance. They gained 348 total yards, 270 on the ground and 78 through the air. Evans was the leading rusher, picking up 99 yards and a TD on 17 carries. Eshenaur was next with 56 yards on four carries; J.T. Spurlock rushed four times for 39 yards; Chase Morgan rushed 11 times for 27 yards; Campbell rushed 12 times for 24 yards; and Myers rushed seven times for 25 yards.
Campbell went 8-of-23 passing for 78 yards and two TDs, with Evans and Eshenaur each picking up two receptions.
Defensively, Hunter Stephens led the Vikings with six and a half tackles and a fumble recovery. Eshenaur added six tackles; Josh Kay had five and a half; Evans had three and a half with a forced fumble; Colton Kay had three and a half and a fumble recovery; B.J. Haynes had four and a half; Nathan Hall had three and a half; Ethan Wendell had three; Charles Sheets had two and a half; Chase Morgan had two; and J.T. Spurlock had one and a half tackles.
The Patriots rolled up 463 yards on the night, 375 of which came on the ground. Johnson was the main component, carrying the ball 16 times for 162 yards and a TD. McClung was next with 12 rushes for 49 yards and three touchdowns, while Wells rushed 12 times for 89 yards.
Brooks scored the other rushing touchdown on his only carry for 55 yards. Wells also finished 6-of-14 through the air for 88 yards and a TD.
The loss drops the Vikings to 2-3 on the season, while the Patriots also moved to 2-3. In the midst of a tough four-game stretch, the Vikings will try to bounce back this week on the road at Class AAA No. 3 Huntington.
Total yards: Ripley 348 – George Washington 463
Rushing (att-yds): Ripley 55-270 – George Washington 43-375
Passing (att-comp-yds): Ripley 8-23-78 – George Washington 6-14-88
Penalties: Ripley 7-50 yards – George Washington 8-91 yards
Turnovers: Ripley 0 – George Washington 2
First downs: Ripley 22 – George Washington 20
Time of possession: Ripley 29:02 – George Washington 18:53