The Ridgeland Panthers have a lot of weapons and most of them were on display Friday night.
Ridgeland racked up 455 yards rushing on just 23 attempts, added 129 more yards in the air, and rolled to a 69-7 victory over region and Walker County rival LaFayette at Bowers and Painter Field.
Six different players had over 40 yards rushing for Ridgeland with none of the six getting more than four carries each. Five of the six found the endzone at least once, the lone holdout being quarterback Tanner Hill, who actually led the Panthers with 115 yards on four rushes. Hill was also 7-of-10 in the air with a pair of scores and one interception.
Despite only playing the third quarter, A'zavier Blackwell finished with 77 yards on three carries, while Jordan Blackwell had 65 yards on four carries, all of which also came in the third quarter alone.
Shawn Wilson helped pick up the first-half slack with 72 yards on four carries. Jordan Hughley had 49 yards on just two touches, while Terrence Roberts picked up 40 yards on three attempts. Torrance Roberts was the leading receiver with 88 yards on three catches.
"We've always had some guys that can really do some spectacular things with the ball," Ridgeland head coach Cortney Braswell said. "We had some guys that really rose to the challenge tonight, played some positions they weren't really comfortable with and got some good things done. We had several guys carry the football tonight that hadn't really gotten to do it, so we're excited and proud of their efforts. It's good to see them put some points on the board for themselves."
The Panthers (5-2, 3-0) needed just a little more than two minutes to score on their first drive as Stephon Walker got into the endzone following a 12-yard screen pass from Hill. Hill's 62-yard scamper on the next possession set up Terrance Roberts on an 8-yard run to make it 14-0.
LaFayette (4-4, 1-3) would get a nice one-handed interception by Tyrese Marsh near midfield on Ridgeland's next possession, but a strip sack by Dylan Swanson would give the ball right back to the Panthers. One play later, Hill hit Torrance Roberts on a 48-yard post pattern to add to the lead.
An interception by Walker early in the second quarter was turned into more points as Wilson weaved his way through traffic on a 47-yard score. Terrance Roberts ended LaFayette's next possession by blocking a punt deep in Rambler territory and returning it 11 yards for his second touchdown of the night, while additional TD runs by Hughley (51 yards) and Wilson (6 yards) would make it 48-0 at halftime.
Jordan Blackwell would score twice in the third quarter on runs of 2 and 1 yards, sandwiched around a 50-yard TD burst by his older brother. Conner Middleton was 9-of-10 on extra points, while he had one blocked by LaFayette's Kyler Cleghorn.
The Ramblers were able to put a drive together in the fourth quarter as they marched 69 yards in 14 plays. LaFayette was 3-of-4 on third down and 1-of-1 on fourth down. That one fourth down play resulted in a 3-yard touchdown run by Alan Hu with 2:45 left, spoiling the Panthers' shutout bid. Max Studdard added the extra point.
Vyshonn Daniel was 10-of-17 passing for 86 yards for the Ramblers. Jamario Clements led the ground game with 54 yards on 14 carries, while Andrew Pendergrass caught two passes for a team-high 46 yards.
While LaFayette will be off next week to regroup, Ridgeland will make the drive to Jasper to face off with the undefeated Pickens Dragons in a much-anticipated battle that will most likely determine the region champion. Pickens hammered Northwest Whitfield on Friday night, 55-13, to keep pace with the Panthers as the only two teams still undefeated in Region 6-AAAA play.
Braswell said his team was looking forward to the challenge.
"I think everything that we've been through up to this point has been in preparation for us to go play this football game," he explained. "Certainly, (Pickens) is a really, really good football team, but we like our prospects and the way our kids playing right now too. It should be a battle between two really different styles of football going at each other...them with their smash mouth and with the flash-and-dash that we like to do on offense. We're excited to put our guys on the field with their guys and see what happens after four quarters."