Choctaws rally in fourth quarter to take non-region win over Ripley
Despite falling behind midway through the final frame, the Choctaws surged back down the stretch in the fourth quarter as a trio of Dyer County touchdowns put the orange and white over the top for a 43-29 win over Ripley on Friday night in Newbern.
“I thought the kids responded and we didn’t give up,” Dyer County head coach David Whittle said. “They made some pretty big plays on offense.
“Deon Thompson came up with a couple big plays. When you score 21 points in four minutes, that’s a pretty good job.”
Dyer County led by seven at the half but Ripley quickly cut into the Choctaw lead in the third quarter, getting a Tyrell Miller touchdown run early in the second half. But, the extra-point attempt failed, leaving the Choctaws on top of the Tigers 22-21.
Dyer County almost committed a fatal error as the ensuing kickoff was fumbled by the Choctaws, giving the Tigers back the ball. But, Mason Heathcott came up big with an interception to get the ball back during the Ripley drive. The Tiger defense, though, returned the favor, getting an interception of its own.
After Ripley regained possession from the Choctaws early in the final frame, the Tigers were finally able to get back on the board after being denied by the Dyer County defenders on Ripley’s last two possessions. A Ray Washington 10-yard touchdown run put the Tigers on top for the first time in the ballgame with 6:22 left to play. Tae McKinnis added the two-point conversion to put the Tigers on top 29-22.
Dyer County was quick to answer back. A big halfback pass from Jefhry Taylor to Deon Thompson covered 41 yards and took the Choctaws across midfield to the Ripley 17-yard line. From there, LaQuinton Wells broke free to cover the rest of the distance and get the Choctaws within one. Trent Yuhas, after missing his first extra point of the season earlier in the night, tied the game at 29-29 with 4:38 left in the game.
The Choctaw defense continued to play well, holding the Tigers in check and got the ball back for the offense. A Taylor carry took the Dyer County offense across midfield to the Ripley 41-yard line. From there, quarterback Beau Garner found an open Deon Thompson for a touchdown pass. Yuhas added the extra point to give Dyer County a 36-29 lead with 2:35 left in the game.
Though penalties hurt Ripley on the ensuing Tiger drive, Heathcott’s second interception in as many quarters proved to be a backbreaker as he returned the ball all the way down to the Ripley five-yard line.
From there, it took only three plays for Taylor to get into the end zone for a valuable insurance touchdown. Yuhas added the extra point to give Dyer County a commanding 43-29 lead with 41 seconds left in the game.
The Choctaw defense clinched the win with another interception – this time from Wells – as Dyer County escaped with the win.
“Mason Heathcott came up with a big interception to seal the game for us,” Whittle said. “Then, we punched one in late there.
“It wasn’t a pretty win, but we’ll take a win any day.”
The Choctaws got on the board first, capping a four-play scoring drive highlighted by a 33-yard strike to Thompson with a four-yard Taylor run for a touchdown. Yuhas added the extra point to put Dyer County on top with 10:58 left in the first quarter.
But, Ripley answered almost immediately, getting a 10-yard run from Ray Washington to cap a quick Tiger scoring drive. Caleb Hawkins added the PAT to tie the game.
The score remained knotted at 7 until late in the second quarter. Dyer County appeared to take a three-point lead after a 26-yard field goal by Yuhas. But, a penalty on the kick, then another on the ensuing play gave Dyer County a fresh set of downs at the Ripley 2-yard line. But, the Tigers held Dyer County out of the end zone.
The goalline stand proved to be for nothing as two plays later a Tiger fumble was recovered by Ripley in the end zone, resulting in a safety and a 9-7 Dyer County lead with 3:51 left in the first half.
On the ensuing free kick from the Ripley 20-yard line, Dyer County’s Wells broke through the Tiger coverage to score on a 70-yard kick return. Yuhas’ extra point failed, leaving Dyer County on top 15-7 with 3:42 left in the second quarter.
As they had done in the first frame, the Tigers didn’t allow the Choctaws to stay ahead for very long as Ripley got back on the board late in the first half with an 11-yard run from McKinnis. Miller then added the two-point conversion to tie the game at 15-15 56 seconds before the half.
The Choctaws, though, would have the last say in the first half, getting a 50-yard pass from Garner to Brice Capps to cap off a two-play, 71-yard drive. Yuhas added the extra point to put Dyer County on top 22-15 at the break.
“I was proud of our kids – the way they fought until the end,” Whittle said. “It was just a good high school game.”
Whittle added his team has still got to cut down on missed tackles.
“We’re missing way too many tackles on defense,” Whittle said. “But, you’ve got to give Ripley some credit, too, they’ve got a pretty athletic team and a quarterback that can throw it pretty well.”
The most telling stat of the night for the Choctaws was in penalties as Dyer County was only penalized four times during its win over Ripley.
“We had a couple penalties on the back end on defense,” Whittle said. “But, I thought, overall, we did better job on that part.”
Dyer County returns to action on Friday night when the Choctaws host Clarksville Northeast in Region 7-5A action kicking off at 7 p.m.
“Our kids have got to respond and be really tough,” Whittle said. “We’ve got a really good team coming in next week.”