RIPLEY — For Ripley, the first half was all about offense. The Vikings rolled up 197 yards on the ground in the first two quarters Friday night and took a 14-7 lead against Lincoln County.
The second half, though, was all about defense, and it’s a good thing for the Vikings, who needed every one of their defensive stands, allowing them to earn a 21-7 victory and remain unbeaten.
The win gives the Vikings their second 2-0 start since 2009; the most recent was 2017.
The backbreaker for the visiting Panthers was a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown by Ripley’s Elijah Miller with 9:52 left in the game, the only score for either side in the second half.
“It wasn’t pretty,’’ said Vikings coach Steve Sayre. “The best thing about this game is that it’s over and we got a win. They’re powerful, they’re big and they’re physical. We knew it was going to be a fistfight and our young guys hung in there just enough to win.’’
Ripley managed only three first downs and 32 second-half yards, but had enough of a cushion — and a defense — to prevail. The Vikings came up with five quarterback sacks and two interceptions in the second half to protect their lead.
“The defense played great in the second half,’’ Sayre said. “We made a lot of mistakes, but we get to start over again on Monday.’’
Ripley gained that 14-7 halftime edge on a 60-yard run by Isaiah Casto off a double reverse and a 2-yard run by Kadin Hall. The Panthers (1-1) got their score on a 6-yard pass from Gabe Bates to Williams Phillips that tied the score 7-all in the first quarter.
Lincoln County, which won its opener last week for the first time in program history — it had gone 0-14 in its first game of the season prior to that — pieced together several long drives with its hurry-up offense, but only cashed in the first one.
In the second quarter, the Panthers had a 10-play march that got to the Ripley 1, but they lost a fumble on the handoff exchange. In the third quarter, they ran 13 plays and got to the Vikings 23, but came up short on fourth and inches as defensive back Wyatt Simon tackled Phillips after a short completion.
Ripley linebacker Brady Anderson turned in another stellar defensive play in the fourth quarter when LC had a fourth-and-1 at the Vikes 33 and he stopped the ball-carrier for a loss of 2 yards.
Lincoln County was also hamstrung when its leading rusher, Isaiah Smith, fell victim to cramps and left the game for good four plays into the fourth quarter. Smith, who ran for 221 yards and three TDs last week in a 33-14 victory against Roane County, carried 16 times for 73 yards Friday and took a screen pass for a 44-yard gain in the first quarter on the Panther’s scoring drive.
Bates hit on 11 of 19 passes for 104 yards but was intercepted twice and sacked five times. For Ripley, Hall ran 18 times for 85 yards and Joey Ramsey added 81 yards on 20 attempts.
The Vikings completed just one pass for 6 yards.
The game matched former rivals in the Mountain State Athletic Conference — Ripley left the league following the 2017 football season, five years Lincoln County departed.