Ripley soccer's love of the game brings community closer together

In the small town of Ripley, Mississippi, a group of soccer players used their love of the beautiful game to bring the community together in a way that only sports can.

Posted: Apr 1, 2021 9:13 AM

RIPLEY, Miss. (WTVA) -- On a sunny spring day in Ripley, there wasn’t the ping of a baseball bat nor the crunch of football pads, but the pitter-patter and shouts of a pickup soccer game. 

Ripley has a very tight-knit Hispanic community which, according to alum Martin Morfin and current senior Jhasiel Bautista, cultivated a strong love for the game of soccer in the town’s youth.

"There’s a love for the game throughout everyone and it also helps us build that chemistry too, it’s like very big around here," Bautista said.

"All of our parents, they grew up playing, they know the game, they were the ones who were coaching us," Morfin added.

The parents were coaching, because up until six years ago organized soccer didn’t exist at any level in Ripley. The school stopped offering it in the 90s, but that didn’t stop Morfin and his friends from playing.

"All of us lived up here, played on the streets, we just played anywhere we could," Morfin said.

When Morfin was in 8th grade, the community rallied enough support to bring soccer back to Ripley High. Jeremy Smith was the first coach and he never coached soccer a day in his life. The team had potential, and Smith reached out to then North Pontotoc head coach Joe Hunsucker.

"From day one that I took over the program, they have come out and just had the best work ethic," Hunsucker said.

In his third year of coaching, this season, the Ripley Tigers caught fire, making it to the state championship game. Six years after the program didn’t exist and it meant a lot to senior Sergio Juarez to bring pride to his community.

"It was just an amazing feeling, I just see how much they support us in our games and how much it means to them when we win," Juarez said.

The Tigers came up short in the title game, but during their run to the championship, Coach Hunsucker started noticing a change in the atmosphere.

"The non-Hispanic community has come in and have said, hey I’ve never watched a soccer game before but I enjoy it," Hunsucker said. "So now it's different cultures coming in watching soccer games and the Hispanic community is now interacting with the non-Hispanic community and now we’re all working together to build this program up."

And for Morfin, who was a part of that original team six years ago, when the stands were virtually empty at his games, he stood in awe of how far the program has come.

"It just shows how much everyone cares about sports, no matter what it is, no matter if they don’t understand it or not," Morfin said. "It’s just fun to see all these fans come in out of nowhere and just its an honor to see everything go on the way it is now."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 307519

Reported Deaths: 7096
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20772248
Hinds19888408
Harrison17489302
Rankin13311275
Jackson13097243
Madison9895210
Lee9856169
Jones8290160
Forrest7523146
Lauderdale7187237
Lowndes6262144
Lamar610584
Lafayette6027117
Washington5280132
Bolivar4769129
Oktibbeha455297
Panola4442103
Pearl River4419139
Warren4280118
Marshall4273100
Pontotoc416472
Monroe4057132
Union403675
Neshoba3987176
Lincoln3869108
Hancock372085
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329389
Tate322681
Pike3180104
Scott310572
Yazoo304368
Alcorn297764
Itawamba296776
Copiah292965
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284668
Prentiss275659
Marion265779
Wayne261341
Leake261073
Grenada254982
Covington254580
Adams245882
Newton244859
George237847
Winston225981
Tishomingo222067
Jasper219748
Attala213273
Chickasaw204857
Holmes186471
Clay182454
Stone179131
Clarke176876
Tallahatchie175240
Calhoun163230
Yalobusha158836
Smith158534
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126223
Noxubee125933
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite120041
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105432
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95226
Humphreys94332
Franklin81823
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 518899

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson753641487
Mobile37763798
Madison33859494
Tuscaloosa25266443
Montgomery23962565
Shelby23106238
Baldwin20631300
Lee15524165
Calhoun14284311
Morgan14139268
Etowah13662345
Marshall11957219
Houston10380278
Elmore9993200
Limestone9811147
Cullman9470188
St. Clair9426234
Lauderdale9215227
DeKalb8746181
Talladega8058171
Walker7087275
Jackson6754110
Autauga6723103
Blount6483135
Colbert6203130
Coffee5399112
Dale4767110
Russell428838
Franklin419982
Chilton4083109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3893146
Escambia387674
Dallas3527149
Chambers3499122
Clarke346360
Marion3065100
Pike305875
Lawrence295395
Winston272372
Bibb256258
Marengo248661
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224755
Hale218775
Butler212266
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176941
Monroe171440
Washington164038
Macon154548
Clay149354
Crenshaw149257
Cleburne146041
Lamar139234
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99228
Greene90734
Choctaw58724
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Columbus
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A cold front will move into our area during our Tuesday. This front will bring some chances for some rain and isolated thunderstorms for our Tuesday night. Some of the activity will linger in our area into our Wednesday.
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