By Kedrick Storey/Southern Sentinel
RIPLEY – They may be in different classifications, but the Class 2A Eupora Eagles and the 3A Ripley Tigers were as evenly matched as they could be in their Friday night game at Tiger Stadium.
In their first meeting since 1983, the visiting Eagles overcame five turnovers, including four on their first five possessions and held on for a 28-20 victory.
“There’s not a dimes difference between both our teams,” said Eupora coach Junior Graham. “We were a little quicker up front and that was a big difference. They had been running down hill on other teams.”
Eupora held Ripley, which entered with a 250-yard rushing average, to just 77 yards. The Eagles had 10 tackles-for-loss.
“You got to give the Eupora defense credit. They stopped our run game,” said Ripley coach Chad Cook. “We hadn’t seen what they do and that worried me all week. They kind of had us on our heels.”
The game opened with a combined six turnovers. Ripley’s Cody James tossed the first of his four interceptions on the first play, but Eupora gave it right back with a fumble.
Eupora got on the board first, when Rusty Johnson picked up a Tiger fumble at the 5-yard line and dove in to the end zone. The Eagles had fumbled a play earlier on a center-QB exchange.
Ripley answered with a 29-yard TD pass from James to Sedabris Boyd on their next possession. The two teams traded scoring drives in the second quarter – a 7-yard run for the Eagles’ Vandy Smith and a 5-yard TD grab by Ripley’s Christian Johnson. Eupora’s 2-point conversion made the difference in their 15-14 halftime lead.
Ripley got its first lead when James tossed his third TD, a screen pass to Isaiah Howard, who took it 80-yards for a 20-15 lead with 6:02 left in the quarter.
On their ensuing drive, the Eagles responded on a third down play, as Trey Pittman hit Ole Miss signee Derrick Jones on a go route for an 80-yard TD.
“That was big because it was third down,” said Graham. “It gave us all the momentum.”
Pittman, who completed nine passes for 219 yards, scored the Eagles’ final TD on an 11-yard run in the fourth quarter.