ou could say Ripley’s varsity football game Friday night inside Memorial Stadium was “special.”
For starters, the first-year head coach of the Vikings Steve Sayre, a one-time Ripley football standout, was going up against Marietta, a school where he once served a six-year span as its football leader. It certainly added a “special” spice to the matchup.
Then factor in the phase of football known as “special.” As in special teams.
The game featured back-to-back kickoff returns and a blocked extra point.
In the end, what made Friday night truly “special” was Sayre’s Vikings registering their third win in four games with a 28-26 decision over the visiting Tigers.
“It was an exciting game,” Sayre said. “Our kids played hard. And special teams played a big part.”
The first quarter had plenty of fireworks with Ripley’s Joey Ramsey putting the Vikings on top first with a 41-yard dash to the end zone. It was the start of a big night for Ramsey, who finished with 134 yards rushing on 23 carries. Carter Cochran’s extra point gave the Vikings a 7-0 at the 7:32 mark.
Marietta wasted little time getting on the board as Tony Munos took the ensuing kickoff at the 4-yard line and raced 96 yards for a score. The Vikings blocked the extra point attempt to maintain a 7-6 lead with 7:19 on the first quarter clock.
Ramsey and the Vikings returned the favor on the very next play as the sophomore gathered in the Marietta kickoff from the 13-yard line and journeyed 87 yards for another score. Katlyn Lawrence’s kick made it a 14-6 advantage for Ripley with 7:07 to go in the first.
“That certainly got the blood pumping,” said Sayre of the two straight kickoff returns.
After three touchdowns were produced in the span of 25 seconds, the remainder of the half was scoreless.
Ripley extended its lead with 9:04 to go in the third when Kadin Hall, who also went over the century mark with a 117-yard rushing night on 19 carries, got in from five yards out with Cochran adding the PAT to make it a 21-6 count.
Marietta, though, stayed within striking distance when Zach Bartlett punched it in from the 3-yard line. A missed two-point conversion made it a 21-12 score with 4:54 showing on the third-quarter clock.
With time winding down in the third, sophomore quarterback Ty Stephens hooked up with Ramsey on an 18-yard scoring play with 29 seconds to go. Lawrence’s kick gave the Vikings another two TD lead at 28-12 heading into the final 12 minutes of play.
The Tigers would again claw back starting with a 2-yard run by Bartlett. Reese Gerber found Munos on a pass play for a successful two-point try to make it a 28-20 game with loads of time (11:32) remaining.
The next score came with 4:20 to go in the contest when Gerber took the football from the 8-yard line and scored to bring the Tigers to within two points at 28-26. Ripley’s defense thwarted a pass attempt by Gerber which would have tied the game to keep the two-point lead - an advantage that would hold up the rest of the way.
The victory improved Ripley to 3-1 while Marietta dropped to 2-4. The game was the regular-season finale for the Tigers, who will begin playoff action this weekend in Ohio. The Buckeye State chose to play a six-game season and then allow every high school entry into the postseason.
Depending on how deep a school goes in the postseason they could pick up more (regular) games through the end of October.
Besides Ramsey and Hall, Josh Roush carried once for three yards and Stephens twice for no gain.
Stephens was 2-of-6 through the air for 25 yards and the TD pass to Ramsey, who also caught the other pass.
Gerber threw for 207 yards on a 10-of-18 night with one interception. Munos caught five of those passes for 92. Bartlett rushed for 135 yards on 24 carries.
Ripley’s defense was led by Quinton Joyner who had nine solo tackles and three assists. Matt Moore had four and five, respectively. Eli Miller had five, Ramsey finished with four, Isaiah Casto had four, Hall had three solos and an assist, Colton Pepper and Isaac Parsons finished with three, Austin Litton had two solos and an assist, Roush had a solo and two assists, Brandon Deal, Brady Anderson and Kaleb Swisher each had one solo.
Miller had an interception for the Vikings.
Stephens punted twice for a 37-yard average and Stephens once for 38.
The Vikings were slated to play St. Albans this Friday but that game has been shelved. Due to the state’s color-coded COVID-19 map, Jackson County is now gold and can only play other schools in gold. While Kanawha County, where St. Albans is based, is also gold, teams there have chosen to play each other. This will mark the first action for Kanawha County schools in this 2020 season.
Sayre said at press time there was hope of Ripley trying to find another opponent for this weekend.