Ripley is obviously regressing. After scoring 45, 46 and 54 points in the season’s first three games, the Tigers managed only 50 points in a road win at North Panola.
That’s how difficult it seems to find something to complain about with the Tigers (4-0).
“I’ve never had 20 seniors starting, ever, in 13 years,” Ripley coach Chad Cook said. “They play together, man. They play hard.”
Cook says it’s impossible to point out one MVP. Five players have more than 100 yards rushing. Six have scored touchdowns. Sophomore Ant Mullins has four touchdowns. Christian Johnson has two.
Isaih Howard has 536 receiving yards and six TDs; Sedabris Boyd has 16 catches for 245 yards.
The offense is there, but so is a defense that pleases Cook, a former Ole Miss linebacker. Four players have at least 30 tackles, led by senior Aleck Hobson’s 40. James Walter has 4.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss.
“I told the team this. If I had to name a Most Valuable Player, I can’t,” Cook said. “Because every game, somebody is playing really good. We don’t have a most valuable linebacker, most valuable lineman, a receiver. It’s the biggest overall effort from so many different guys that I’ve ever been associated with.”
When the Ripley job came open two years ago, area coaches mumbled about the quality of upcoming young players. Some are sophomores now, but the older group has taken the lead in paving a way for the future.
Dalton James took over for his brother, Cody, at quarterback. Cody James set the school’s passing record (2,346 yards) and signed with Delta State.
Seniors Dalton James and Johnson were in a tight quarterback race in the preseason. James already has 876 passing yards and 13 total touchdowns. Cook isn’t shy about putting Johnson in at quarterback, either, and the senior leads the team in rushing.
The next test is Calhoun City, where Cook graduated in 1995. It will be the first time he has played against his alma mater and first game between the two since 1971. Cook helped the Wildcats to the 1994 and 1995 state title games. Cook had 17 tackles in 1995’s loss to Taylorsville. Cook’s a cousin to Calhoun offensive coordinator Travis England and center Jordan England.
“When we do Thanksgiving and Christmas, they always talk about their season and I always talk about mine,” Cook said. “Now, we’ll be talking about this game.”