By Kedrick Storey
TUNICA – Friday night, leading 27-7 at halftime, the Ripley Tigers failed to score in the second half for the first time all season.
It hurt them. They allowed 26 unanswered points to Rosa Fort and then what looked to be a Dalton James game-tying touchdown was overruled and they lost 33-27 in the crucial Division 2-4A matchup.
After driving to the Rosa Fort 8-yard line with 1 second remaining, Ripley got one final play at the 3-yard line after Rosa Fort was flagged for pass interference. James barreled behind his blockers and crossed the goal line. One official signaled touchdown, as another signaled down by contact.
After a brief discussion, the TD was overturned.
Ripley coach Chad Cook didn’t like the call, but said his team just didn’t make plays when it counted.
“The refs didn’t even speak to each other,” Cook said. “But I thought we froze up. We had plays to make and didn’t make them. That’s a good football team, and we can only control what we can control.”
The Daily Journal’s No. 1-ranked 4A/3A team struck early in the first half. After punting on their opening drive, Ripley put together a nine-play drive capped by James’ 3-yard run. However, on that drive, Ripley lost leading receiver Isaiah Howard to a personal foul ejection.
The Tigers got one of three turnovers back on a Lions fumble then went 42 yards, as Christian Johnson hit Sedabris Boyd on a 41-yard pass to the Rosa Fort 1-yard line. James scored for a 13-0 Ripley advantage.
In the second quarter, Christian Johnson – who had 111 yards rushing in the first half – scored on a 5-yard run and James found Boyd from 45 yards out to lead 27-7.
The Lions opened the second half with a Brandon Bryant 1-yard run. Bryant had a 78-yard run to make it 27-20 after three quarters. In the fourth, the Lions (7-1, 3-0) intercepted James twice. Ken Hibbler had a 92-yard pick six for a game-tying score, then Bryant found a streaking Cedric Carter for a 46-yard go-ahead TD.
“We just told the guys to keep fighting,” said Lions coach Edwin Norwood. “They won the first half. We had to come out and win the second and that’s what we did.”