By Kedrick Storey
OXFORD – Ripley coach Chad Cook said Friday’s Division 2-4A opener against the Lafayette Commodores would come down to which team ran the ball better.
It took Cook’s Tigers until the second half to establish a consistent ground attack, but when they did, it went just as the second-year Ripley coach expected.
Trailing 21-14 at halftime, Ripley, completely dominated the second half, running away behind 147 yards on the ground and three rushing scores to win 38-21 in a critical division road matchup.
It was Ripley’s seventh win in a row.
“In the first half, I thought we were behind mentally. They were big-playing us,” said Cook, “At halftime I told my guys the most physical team in the second half will win. Whoever runs the ball is gonna win the football game. I thought the guys really came out and executed really hard the second half.”
The Daily Journal’s No. 1-ranked Class 4A/3A team totaled 199 yards on the ground, led by senior tailback Christian Johnson’s 107 yards on 24 attempts. His 8-yard TD with 1:37 to play in the third and quarterback Dalton James’ two-point run gave the Tigers a 22-21 lead they would never relinquish. James had 67 yards and added two rushing scores.
Ripley’s Sedabris Boyd’s 15-yard TD run with 3:40 remaining put the game on ice to the dismay of a frustrated Lafayette coach Eric Robertson.
“They did a good job of blocking and we did a poor job of defending it,” Robertson said. “They just ran right over the top of us. We couldn’t stop them.”
Ripley limited Ole Miss commit D.K. Buford to just 23 yards rushing, but he did haul in a 60-yard TD pass from Devin Thomas in the second quarter to give Lafayette a 21-14 lead. However, Buford’s third-quarter fumble led to Johnson’s go-ahead score. Lafayette managed just 79 yards on the ground. Thomas finished 11 of 23 for 193 yards with two TDs.