By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
The Booneville Blue Devils and Ripley Tigers have combined to win seven straight games and both sit at 3-0 atop Division 1-3A. That will change when the rivals meet tonight at 7 p.m. at Northeast’s Tiger Stadium.
“Since I got here in March, the championship mentality is what we’ve tried to build and we’ve come a long way,” Ripley coach Chad Cook said. “We’re going to go out the same as we try to every game.”
A win would go a long way for either team to win the division. Their numbers are similar – both teams are scoring right at 35 points per game and allowing about 16.
Senior Cody James has been the main cog of Ripley’s offense. He’s thrown for 1,682 yards, rushed for a team-high 694 on 110 touches and has accounted for 29 touchdowns.
“I don’t think there’s anything you can do to stop him. He does a wonderful job. I wish there was some way to stop him. We just have to try to contain him and hope they make some mistakes,” Booneville’s Mike Mattox said.
Booneville sophomore back Zeus Rogers should go over the 1,000-yard mark tonight. Through eight games he has 982 yards and 11 touchdowns on 122 carries.
“He’s gotten better and better, learned and learned and he’s becoming a running back now,” Mattox said. “Going into the ninth game, he’s not a sophomore anymore. We have several sophomores in key spots.”
He’ll be chased by an improving defense. Ripley’s three losses have each been by eight points or less. The first three weeks of division play, the Tigers have outscored opponents 122-24.
Cook said the development of the Tigers’ offensive line and tight ends has been a key to James’ and Ripley’s success. He credits James with becoming a vocal leader who demands a lot from others and more from himself.
“They have, from where we were to where we are now, probably made the biggest improvement I’ve seen in a set of kids,” Cook said. “Coach Sam Hathorn has done a real good and Cody has taken advantage of a lot of situations. He’s going to get the ball when the game is on the line.”
Other games tonight:Thrasher (5-2) at Falkner (7-1) and TCPS (0-8) at Smithville (6-1).