RIPLEY - Ripley earned its first win Friday night while Nitro was left searching for its first one since 2010.Sophomore quarterback Trevor Tucker accounted for three touchdowns as the host Vikings pushed around the Wildcats for a 48-20 decision. A crowd of about 3,000 attended the Class AAA Mountain State Athletic Conference matchup at Memorial Stadium at Ripley High School.The Vikings (1-2), who dropped their first two contests to start the season, rang up 313 yards on 40 carries on the ground and scored on five of their first seven possessions, including four in a row bridging the first and second half."It feels great, especially for the kids,'' said Ripley coach Jimmy Frashier. "They're working hard."We played the first half against [Parkersburg] South [in the season opener], played the second half against Winfield [last week] and tonight we finally put two halves together.''Nitro (0-3), meanwhile, dropped its 18th straight game as the Wildcats couldn't contain the Vikings' offense."They were just bigger and meaner than us,'' said Nitro first-year coach Derek Midkiff of the Vikings. "I know we got whipped up front. We just got beat physically. We started seeing improvement until tonight. We took a step back.''Tucker led five backs who rushed for more than 50 yards with 74 on eight carries and added 33 yards passing, including a 22-yard TD toss to Jake Harrison. Austin Hileman chipped in 67 yards on seven attempts.On their first possession, the Vikings took the lead for good on Ryan Stutler's 10-yard scoring run for a 7-0 edge. Ripley took advantage of two 15-yard penalties to keep the drive alive.
Nitro's Alex White kicked a 42-yard field goal with 14.7 seconds left in the first period to slice his team's deficit to 7-3.After both teams traded punts, Ripley scored on its next four possessions, including its first of the third quarter, to seize a 35-10 advantage with 10:32 to go in the period."I'm tickled to death with them,'' said Frashier of his young team. "We played a little better pass defense."We stopped them and got some three-and-outs early, which is something we hadn't been able to do. I didn't think we made the same mistakes. That's good to see.''The Wildcats' offense, which had been averaging 28 points and 405 yards per game, languished. Nitro turned the ball over on downs once, lost a fumble once and punted twice before Chris Moody hit Ethan Clark for a 4-yard score on a slant to close to 21-10 with 2:15 remaining in the opening half.Moody finished 21-of-37 for 207 yards with one TD and three interceptions, two of which were returned for scores on back-to-back possessions late in the fourth quarter after the game was out of hand. Clark turned in 105 yards on eight catches with one score. Brayden Underwood churned out 96 yards on 12 tries, but 63 of those came on a late TD. White also connected on a 37-yard field goal in the third quarter.
"We'll have to do a better job at practice this week and get back to the way we were the first two weeks,'' said Midkiff, a former Nitro quarterback. "I don't know what happened to [our players] this week. We'll get back out there and back to the grind.''It was a bittersweet homecoming for Nitro assistant coach Bryce Casto. The former South Charleston head coach is a former Vikings standout and is in the school's athletic hall of fame.Nitro and Ripley met for the 25th time since 1934 with the Wildcats now holding a 14-11 advantage. The Wildcats and Vikings each had a player ejected for play after the whistle Friday in the final period.