By Kedrick Storey/Southern Sentinel
RIPLEY – After losing two games in a row on last-minute touchdowns, Pontotoc coach Ken Byars said his team was in need of a win.
Friday, they gave up an onsides kick that put them in position to fall late again, but they held on.
The Warriors got 165 rushing yards from Deonte Dillworth and 179 yards passing and three touchdowns from Marcus Reed to upend the Ripley Tigers, 34-27.
It was the Warriors’ fourth consecutive win in the series that dates back to 1934.
“It was key for us,” said Byars, now in his second season with the Warriors. “We’ve been in two really tight ballgames the last two weeks that could have gone either way.”
Ripley (2-2) outgained Pontotoc 510 to 374 but six turnovers were too much for the Tigers to overcome.
Ripley coach Chad Cook said he has preached to his team about protecting the football and said now the message hits home.
“I told them, you can’t give up what I call five big scoring plays and turn the ball over six times,” he said. “With a minute to go in the game we still had a chance to tie the game or win it, but with those 11 plays you can’t do that as a team.”
With one minute to play, Ripley got the ball back as they trailed 34-19. Ripley QB Cody James hit John Austin Moore on a screen that he took 80 yards for the score. James added the 2-point conversion to trim the lead to 34-27. James completed nine passes for 173 yards and two scores.
Ripley recovered the onside kick at its own 42, but Pontotoc intercepted James for the second time to end the threat.
Pontotoc (2-2), who led 14-13 at halftime, wasted little time getting the scoring started in the second half. Dillworth, took a handoff 65 yards for the score for a 21-13 lead with 11:47 to play in the third quarter. Dilworth had 95 yards in the first half.
“He’s a tremendous player and we lean on him to make big plays,” Byars said. “He’s one of those guys, you hit him, you hit him and the next thing you know he’s 80 yards down the field.”
Dilworth did have an 80-yard TD run on the Warriors’ next possession, but it was called back for holding.
Ripley answered later in the quarter with a 42-yard drive, capped by a 14-yard TD run by James to make it 21-19 at the 1:22 left. James had a game-high 198 yards on 24 carries.
Reed was 16 for 21 for 179 yards and three TD passes to Will Gill, Michael Walters and Tre Freeman.