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Plenty on line in the Hatchet Game

RAVENSWOOD — Plenty will be on the line for both teams as the Ripley Vikings and Ravenswood Red Devils battle for the Old Hatchet at Flinn Field at Spano-Taylor Stadium on Friday night.

The Vikings, ranked 16th in WVSSAC AAA ratings, have bounced back from a losing season last fall to go 5-3 on the season. Ripley will be needing a win and some other teams to lose to guarantee a spot when playoffs start next week, but first-time head coach Stephen Sayre doesn’t expect an easy matchup from the Red Devils come Friday night.

The former Viking standout and longtime assistant knows that you have to throw records out of the window when the Hatchet is on the line.

“It’s a rivalry game, it’s a big game. You can throw the records out the window. There have been multiple upsets over the years from both teams. So you have got to be ready to play,” Sayre said.

“Particularly when you go to Ravenswood. You got to be ready to play. So I’m hoping our team is ready to play Friday night.”

The first game was played in 1919 and the Vikings lead in both the overall series (43-40-4) and for the Hatchet that started in 1955 as well (38-27).

Ripley has been averaging 23.5 points per game and only allowing 15.8 PPG and had two shutouts on the season.

Sophomore Ty Stephens will be the Vikings quarterback and has performed nicely in his first year in the role, throwing 420 yards on 29 completions for six touchdowns but five interceptions.

Running the ball will be the main focus for the Vikings and is led by running backs senior Kadien Hall and sophomore Joey Ramsey. The Viking duo makes up 1,377 of the 1,547 team yards on the ground. The senior running back leads the team with 719 yards and 121 carries to go with his seven touchdowns, while Ramsey has reached pay dirt a team-high eight times, as well as 658 yards rushing on 114 carries. Ramsey is also the leading receiver with 131 yards on nine catches. Hall, juniors Elijah Miller, Blake Cummings, and sophomore Isaiah Casto are all options for Stephens.

The offensive and defensive lines are headlined by seniors Quinton Joyner and Matt Moore. Joyner has a team-high with 83 tackles (11.9 TPG), 5.5 for loss, and 1.5 sacks on the year. Moore is close behind 73 tackles (10.4 TPG) and leads with 3.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. Austin Litton has 38 tackles and two sacks. Senior Matthew Armstead and junior Colton Rhodes will also be on the line.

The Vikings defense has been forcing teams to turn the ball over 23 times so far on the season (nine INT’s and 14 fumbles). Ramsey and Casto having two each lead Ripley in interceptions.

Ripley has used two junior kickers on the season and both have been near perfect, Carter Cochran is 14 for 14 in extra points and Kaitlyn Lawrence has only missed one PAT in 12 tries.

“They have had a great attitude and a great effort all year. They have handled all of the strange things that have happened this year. This is anything but a normal football season. So I’m really proud of them. They came out and played hard,’ Sayre said. “We have made some mistakes and we have lost a couple of games that we shouldn’t have. But we played hard and we’re really happy right now to have the chance to qualify for the playoffs. I hope we do.”

Picking up its first win of the season and having their most offensive production in the 47-6 win versus Webster County, Ravenswood would like to continue that success on Friday night but will be without the services of five starters due to quarantine. Having to quarantine as well previously, head coach Eric Hupp will be back on the sidelines after stepping away.

Filling in for Hupp has been offensive coordinator Adam Hill, former head coach in Florida, and a standout for the Vikings is no stranger to the rivalry, but it will be the first time wearing the red and black.

“Some things have happened this week with having some kids quarantined, we have five starters that are quarantine this week,” Hill said on the game. “It’s definitely different, it’ll hit me on Friday night. I have friends on the other sidelines, friends in the press box, and stuff like that. So I’m just looking forward to it. Let’s bring the Hatchet back to Ravenswood. When I left in 2013, it was in Ripley. Let’s bring it back.”

Senior Ben Queen originally started at quarterback, but freshman Jacob Bowling moved into the starting role, going 10-31 for 134 yards and a touchdown.

“He’s done a good job, his grasp of the offenses is really good for a freshman. He wants to answer every question.” Hill said. “He will still make some freshmen mistakes but his grasp of the offense has really surprised me and he’s gonna contribute for years to come.”

Only receiving three carries in the first two games, junior running back Isaiah Casto has been the Red Devils main offensive attack, rushing for 742 yards on 113 carries and eight touchdowns. Casto has run for 100+ yards in five straight games, including season-highs of 200 yards and four touchdowns in the Red Devils first win versus Webster County in week nine. Queen rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown. Deondre Briggs and Bryson Litten each have 67 rushing yards.

Junior receiver Shawn Banks leads the team in both catches (nine), receiving yards (180), and receiving touchdowns (three). Junior Wes Hill is second with six receptions, 98 yards, and a touchdown.

Wes Hill is usually the first Red Devil to meet the ball carrier, leading the team with 57 total tackles (6.3 TPG), six for loss, and three sacks. Banks is second with 34 tackles and has two INTs as well. Caleb Lane has 32 tackles and two sacks. Zach Johnson has 27 tackles, eight for loss, and a sack, and Ethan Lane has 27 and a sack as well but has seven tackles for a loss. For the Red Devils to slow down the Vikings rushing game, Adam Hill will be expecting a big performance on the line from juniors Blake Ball and Brandon Bragg.

You can contact Tyler Bennett at tbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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