RIPLEY, W.Va. — Class AAA No. 5 Ripley reeled off 29 unanswered points and held No. 12 Greenbrier East scoreless for the game’s final 31:08 Friday to move into the quarterfinals with a 43-15 win at Memorial Stadium.
“Our kids made plays when they needed to,” Ripley coach Eddie Smolder said. “They executed the game plan really well and that came from a great week of practice and being mentally ready to play. Our kids were focused and they wanted this one really bad.”
The resounding victory, which came in Ripley’s first home playoff game since 2002, allows the Vikings (10-1) to travel to Musselman next week for a quarterfinal. It was also the team’s 10th straight win since a season-opening setback to No. 6 Parkersburg South.
Although the Spartans (6-5) recovered the game’s opening kickoff after utliizing a squib, they were unable to capitalize despite starting at the Ripley 43-yard line.
After forcing a punt, Ripley scored on its third play from scrimmage — a 79-yard pass from Cyrus Casto to Dalton Myers. Davisson Flint converted the point-after try to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead at the 8:39 mark of the opening quarter.
The Vikings needed only one play to score on their second possession as Jeremy Harper outraced the Spartans for a 60-yard run, giving the Vikings a 14-0 advantage with 6:20 to play in the opening quarter.
But the Spartans seemed to settle in after perhaps being somewhat shellshocked early. They put together a 13 play, 80-yard drive and scored on Marion Lawson’s 1-yard run with 4 seconds left in the quarter. Quarterback Kyle King, holding on the apparent point-after try, took the snap and ran it in for two points instead, cutting Greenbrier East’s deficit to six.
“I told our guys they were trying to do too much and to just slow the game down and play it like you play it in practice,” Spartans coach Ray Lee said. “We were just trying to do too much.”
After forcing Ripley to punt for the only time in the contest, the Spartans took their lone lead of the night when Jaylon Battaile scampered for a 20-yard touchdown run. Hunter Webb made the PAT to put Greenbrier East in front, 15-14 with 7:08 to play in the first half.
But the Vikings got right back to their quick-strike ways, and Evan King got free on a double move to haul in an 81-yard TD pass from Casto on third-and-14, giving the Vikings a 21-15 lead 5:14 before halftime.
“If we could have maintained ball control and eliminated some of the mental mistakes we had, then we really had a chance,” Lee said. “Those big plays were mental breakdowns on our part.”
Harper’s 35-yard TD run with 1:46 left in the first half, combined with Casto’s run on the two-point try, pushed the Ripley lead out to 29-15.
King used his feet to get the Spartans in position to score before halftime, but on second-and-goal from the Ripley 2, the Spartans fumbled the exchange and Ripley pounced on the loose ball to end the half with a touchback and a two-touchdown lead.
The Vikings defense came up with a key stop to start the second half and Harper produced his third rushing touchdown from 5 yards to extend the lead to 36-15 with 4:46 on the third quarter clock.
R.J. Evans capped the scoring with an 8-yard run with 25 seconds left in the third quarter.
“Our kids played good in the first half, but we challenged them at halftime to play their ‘A’ game,” Smolder said. “They brought their ‘A’ game in the third quarter and it definitely showed. We came out of the gate and got a stop and then jumped on them quick and after that third quarter, the game was basically over.
“They wanted it really bad and it showed. They played with heart, guts and effort. I’m extremely proud of them.“