By Thomas Sellers Jr.
RIPLEY — On the road and facing a good team is tough enough.
But the Millington Trojans entered Friday night’s showdown against the Ripley Tigers knowing their defense would be geared toward stopping leading rusher quarterback Tommy Clifton.
The addition challenge for the visiting Trojans was the rainy conditions. Although Millington limit turnovers, it was miscues in the passing game that led to Ripley outlasting the Trojans 10-0.
“They run a 6-2 front,” Millington Head Coach Chris Michael said. “They had eight in the box, so they did what they needed to do to stop the running game. We couldn’t get any momentum going. Against what they do, we had the passing game wide open. Unfortunately, the elements made it hard. They knew that so they made a full commitment to stopping Tommy.
“They did a good job with that game plan and that’s what their defense does anyway,” he added. “We knew that. We knew passing the ball was going to be there. We did a pretty good job and had some good throws. We dropped a lot of balls.”
The Trojans (7-2, 2-0 in Region 8-4A) hit a couple of big passes in the first half that didn’t produce points. Meanwhile the Tigers had a couple of successful drives with one resulting in a field goal attempt.
Both defenses had moments of bending but not breaking. The first 24 minutes resulted in a scoreless tie at the break.
The Tigers (4-5, 2-2 in Region 7-4A) finally got on the scoreboard at the 5:50 mark of the third quarter when Corterrion Moore crossed the soggy goal line from 24-yards out. Ripley led 7-0 after three quarters of action.
Ripley added some insurance in the fourth quarter with 8 minutes and 21 seconds remaining in the game when Caleb Hawkins drilled a 26-yard field goal through the rain drops.
Millington’s most successful drive on the second half came in the final minutes. After a couple of first downs, the Trojans were looking to move the football deeper into Ripley territory. The Tigers used a big sack to stop Millington’s momentum.
“I’m not going to be disappointed in our execution,” Michael said. “I’m not even going to be disappointed in our inability to run. You’re not supposed to be able to run with five blockers and eight defenders. You are supposed to be able to throw it. And we were but it was just tough conditions for a passing night.
“I am most upset about we made mistakes,” he acknowledged. “We gave them crucial penalties in third and long that kept them on the field. Their touchdown came off of dumb mistakes because we kept making penalties. If it wasn’t for our dumb penalties they never would have scored and we would have been in a 0-0 game entering the fourth quarter.”
Michael said he hopes his players learned with the playoffs a few days away you have to play smart in tough conditions against a quality opponent.
The Trojans are back in action next Friday returning home for Senior Night against the Bolton Wildcats.
“They get the sour taste back in their mouths — stop feeling super great about everything they’re doing,” Michael concluded. “Get back on that practice field and get back to work Monday. Bolton is coming off a win, got them a Region win. They plan on coming to our place and getting another. We have to finish this thing out, have a good week of practice and get healthy.”