By Kedrick Storey
MACON – The Ripley Tigers had their worst first half of the season, trailed at intermission for only the second time all year and never got going against the defending Class 4A champions, Noxubee County.
In Friday’s MHSAA Class 4A second-round battle of Tigers, the more experienced bunch won as Noxubee won 28-14 over Ripley. The Tigers finished the season at 11-2.
Noxubee County sacked Ripley quarterback Dalton James four times over the first two quarters.
He was also intercepted once, which Noxubee converted into the only touchdown of the first half, a 31-yard Jessie Bryant touchdown pass, a play after leading receiver Isaiah Howard, dropped a potential score for Ripley.
It was that kind of start for Ripley, but its only trailed 8-0 at the break.
“That was the worst half mentally that I’ve seen from my kids. I think the big stage got them. They’ve never been on this stage before,” said coach Chad Cook, who guided Ripley into 4A for the first time. “But they’ve got some athletes. You’ve got to give Noxubee County credit. They smelled blood in the water and Coach Shorter does an outstanding job.”
Things got worse in the second half as three of Ripley’s first four possessions ended with Noxubee intercepting a pass, including a final 16-yard return for a touchdown by Darell Brown to make it 28-7 with 6:59 to play.
Noxubee County converted the first two into points on a 5-yard run by Brown and a 6-yard plunge by Eric Hunt.
Noxubee County (9-3) recorded nine sacks and held Ripley to 250 yards of total offense.
Ripley had just 56 rushing yards, their lowest output of the season. Leading rusher Christian Johnson was held to 75 yards on 15 carries and that included a 51-yard run.
James went 13-for-28 for 148 yards, one TD and three interceptions. Wide receiver John Austin Moore hauled in two late scores for Ripley.
“Everybody counted us out, but these fellas know how to win,” said Noxubee coach Tyrone Shorter. “We’ve been here. Ripley has a great football team and we knew they would come to play, but I’m proud of my football team.”