By Scotty Nichols
RIPLEY – The Ripley Tigers had won their last two contests against the Itawamba AHS Indians, but the squad from Fulton overcame a lot of adversity Friday night and escaped Tippah County with a tough 41-35 win.
“It was my first game as head coach and we give up a 76-yard touchdown on a kickoff return on the first play of the game,” said IAHS coach Clint Hoots. “I preach overcoming adversity to these kids, and they did just that. They got hit in the gut right off the bat, but they kept battling.”
Ripley’s Stefan Massie returned the opening kick 76 yards to deliver that blow when the middle of the IAHS coverage broke down.
Hunter White capped off the Indians’ first drive with a 9-yard touchdown to give the Indians a 7-6 lead with the extra point after Ripley’s extra point attempt had failed earlier.
Tucker Childers struck paydirt with a 45-yard toss to Isaiah Godwin a couple minutes later to carry a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Less than a minute into the second quarter, IAHS’s Jamal Shumpert, who normally plays linebacker, lined up in the backfield and punched the ball in from six yards out to knot the game up and gave the Indians a 21-14 lead with another touchdown before the half.
“Jamal played tailback in middle school, so he’s familiar with running the football,” Hoots said. “It was an ideal situation to use him there in the second quarter.
IAHS held on to the momentum after taking the second quarter lead and didn’t relinquish it, despite several missed opportunities and a valiant effort by the homestanding Tigers to hold on to the 41-35 win.
Massie finished the game with three scores for Ripley as he caught a touchdown, ran for one and returned a kick for another.
Turning Point: IAHS used a 14-point swing on Jamal Shumpert’s two touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 21-14 lead that they didn’t concede.
Point Man: Senior tailback Hunter White tallied 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns for the Indians.
Talking Point: “It just feels good to get this first win as head coach. The pressure is off … until next week.” – IAHS coach Clint Hoots
• IAHS quarterback Vijay Miller was 19 of 27 passing for 296 yards and a touchdown, and also added a rushing score.
• The Indians snap a two-game skid against the Tigers with the win.
• There were seven turnovers.