By Kedrick Storey/Southern Sentinel
RIPLEY – After two years of being an afterthought, the Ripley Tigers are back atop Division 1-3A.
Friday, against the Belmont Cardinals, the Tigers used a stifling defense, the ground game and an air attack to do something they haven’t done since 2007 – start league play 2-0.
The Tigers (5-3) nearly doubled the Cardinals in total offense – 461-243 yards – and Ripley quarterback Cody James threw for two touchdowns and rushed for two more, as the Tigers controlled from start to finish to post a 35-12 homecoming victory.
Ripley first-year head coach Chad Cook said it was the most complete game his team has played all year, which piggy-backed off last week’s shutout at Holly Springs.
“I’m so proud of them because we’ve come so far,” Cook said. “That’s two games in a row, eight quarters, where I’m not seeing the same mistakes that I was seeing multiple times earlier in the year. Maybe we’re growing up, but I told them, you can’t be satisfied.”
Ripley limited Belmont to 61 yards of total offense in the first half and just two in the fourth quarter. They had eight tackles for loss, a sack and two interceptions on Belmont quarterback Collin Harris. Harris completed nine passes for 96 yards and one touchdown.
Ripley held Belmont leading rusher Alexander Francher to 88 yards and one score on 13 carries. He averaged over 170 yards per game.
“Just a total team effort,” added Cook. “I’m proud of my coaches, players, everybody.”
Ripley led 21-0 at the break, but following a Ripley fumble to start the third quarter, Collins directed a 10-play 44-yard drive, capped by a 29-yard pass to Luke Alexander to trim the lead to 21-6.
Ripley responded with a 75-yard drive, as James added his fourth score of the night, a 40-yard TD pass to Ralph Green, his first of the season. Green caught four balls for a career-high 124 yards.
James was 9 of 12 for 218 yards. He also rushed for 66 yards and scored on runs of 10 and 14 yards. Ripley’s Christian Johnson had 45 total yards and two TDs, a 12-yard pass from James and a 10-yard fourth quarter score.
Belmont (4-2) trimmed the lead to 27-12 with 1:00 to play in the third quarter on an 18-yard run by Francher.
“Ripley was very strong up front and played well on both sides of the ball,” Belmont coach Kerry Moody said. ” They threw it when they needed to, they ran it when they needed to and had a very good game plan and executed very well against us.”