Ripley football recap: Vikings endure tough season, but coach has positive outlook on future

Mark Martin
Special to Jackson Newspapers
The second season in the Steve Sayre era of Ripley Viking football didn't go as planned. The Vikings finished 1-9. Sayre said with several players returning, hopes are high for the future.

After qualifying for the playoffs in 2020 but not getting to compete due to COVID-19, Steve Sayre’s second Ripley Viking football team had its sights set on earning another postseason bid and getting that chance to hit the field.

An extra game, or games, just wasn’t meant to be for the 2021 edition of the royal blue and white.

After falling in its season opener to Brooke, Ripley rebounded to defeat Buckhannon-Upshur in the second week of the season.

The defeat of the Buccaneers proved to be the last of the campaign for the Vikings. Ripley fell in its final eight outings to finish at 1-9.

“It was disappointing for the players and for the coaches and everyone involved,” said Sayre, a former Viking football and wrestling standout. “Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you.”

While Ripley didn’t have to fight through COVID issues as they did in 2020, the season had an array of struggles.

“It was a combination of things,” said Sayre.

While a one-win season isn’t something anyone saw coming, Ripley tried to maintain a positive outlook each and every week as a long season grew longer with the losses mounting.  

“We had a lot of young guys get a lot of valuable playing time,” Sayre said. “They worked hard and improved. Our seniors played their hearts out and I’m proud of those performances.”

Sayre feels bad for what his group of 10 seniors had to encounter the past two seasons.

“They suffered through a lot of adversity,” he said.

“They’ve been through a lot of things. When it comes to high school sports and all they’ve dealt with the last two years with COVID-19 and all those things, they should be able to handle anything thrown at them in the future.

“They fought like crazy. Some of our seniors really played their hearts out coming back from pretty significant injuries. They will always be a part of Ripley.”

The Viking rushing attack this season was led by junior Joey Ramsey, who collected 627 yards on 154 carries.

Sophomore Brady Anderson rushed for 466 yards on 111 carries.

Eli Miller had 84 yards on 17 carries and Jaydon Martin picked up 62 on 12.

Junior quarterback Ty Stephens threw for 767 yards Stephens completed 68-of-141 attempts. Eight of his completions went for touchdowns. He suffered nine interceptions on the year.

Ramsey was also the top receiver with 20 catches for 260 yards. Miller had 17 grabs for 163. Isaiah Casto (7-87), Wyatt Simon (6-99), Anderson (6-42), Blake Cummings (5-43), Parker Boyd (4-70), Hunter Brown (3-26) and Virgil Myers (1-3) all contributed in the pass-catching department.

Ramsey scored five rushing touchdowns and added three more on the receiving end. Anderson scored on seven TD runs in 2021.

Cummings and Boyd had two TD receptions. Simon and Brown each had one.

Defensively, Brown was the team’s top tackler with 93. He had three sacks and recovered two fumbles on the season.

Ramsey was second in stops for the Vikings with 71. He had three fumble recoveries and one interception.

Myers came up with 70 stops while Collen Moore finished with 66 tackles.

Others making tackles on the prevent side were: Miller (52), Brandon Deal (51), Austin Litton (42), Simon (39), Boyd (38), Colton Pepper (36), Bradley Anderson (30), Isaiah Casto (30), Brady Anderson (29), Colton Rhodes (18), Carter Hall (16), Jacob Torres (15), Noah Casto (14), Mason Fluty (12) and Stephens (10).

Stephens had five fumble recoveries this season. Brady Anderson pounced on two miscues. Simon and Myers had one interception each.

Kaitlyn Lawrence made nine extra points and drilled a field goal. Carter Cochran delivered on 7-of-7 PATs.

Miller returned 10 punts for an average of 14.4. Myers also had 10 returns for an average of 12 yards. Ramsey returned nine kickoffs for an average of 23.8. Myers had 14 kickoff returns for an average of 18.2 while Miller averaged 16.4 on 13 returns.

Stephens averaged 37.9 yards on 24 punts. Anderson punted eight times for an average of 27.7.

Sayre said the work will soon be underway for the next chapter of Viking football.

Workouts for those returning will be voluntary until January.

“We did not like the taste of this season and will work to change things,” Sayre said. “We will be working out as a team beginning the first of year.”

Despite the tough season, he feels good about what is ahead for Viking football.

“Each season is different. We’ve got some good players back. We will just continue to try and get better. It all starts with attitude. Our offseason workouts are going to have to have a sense of urgency and intensity.”