After watching film of the Pickens defense giving up over 300 yards rushing to Northwest Whitfield power back Dominique Sistrunk last week, the Ridgeland Panthers were licking their chops to get a shot at the Dragons on Friday night.
Throw in the revenge factor for last year's 35-34 loss at Pickens and it equaled another big victory for the Black-and-White.
The Panthers piled up 515 yards of offense, 491 of it coming on the ground, as they moved to 8-0 overall and 4-0 in Region 6-AAAA with a 55-21 victory at Bowers and Painter Field.
The one-two senior punch of Jalyn Shelton and Markeith "Butter" Montgomery battered the Dragons inside and torched them on the outside. Shelton ran 19 times for 205 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns, while Montgomery picked up 165 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 carries.
A'zavier "Day Day" Blackwell and Gabe McDonald also scored on the ground for No. 4-ranked Ridgeland.
"We definitely thought we could run the ball," Ridgeland head coach Wesley Tankersley, who was named as the Atlanta Falcons Coach of the Week for the state of Georgia on Wednesday. "Jalyn and Butter both had great nights and Day Day and Gabe both played well. A lot of running backs had really good nights and the offensive line blocked well. It was good to see as we keep moving forward."
For all the offense, it was the defense that put the first TD on the board for Ridgeland. After stopping the Dragons in the backfield on back-to-back running plays to open the game, a deflected pass landed in the hands of defensive end Jordan Tucker, who romped the final two yards to stake the Panthers to the lead less than 90 seconds into the contest.
Ridgeland would go on to score on its next two offensive possessions. Shelton went for 68 yards on the Panthers' first offensive snap before plowing in from the 1-yard line two plays later. Montgomery ran three times for 41 yards on the next drive, scoring from three yards out to make it 21-0 with 2:36 left in the opening period.
The Panthers got back on the board again with 4:02 left in the half as Shelton deleted a Dragon defender with a big-time stiff-arm inside the 10 before completing a 41-yard TD run.
After gaining just 14 total yards on its first six possession, Pickens (4-4, 2-2) got a nice cutback from tailback Robert Davis on a 51-yard scamper and two plays later, quarterback Jacob Brumby lofted up a pass to receiver Zach Goss, who outjumped a Ridgeland defensive back for a 26-yard score.
But after giving Ridgeland a short field on a squibbed kickoff, McDonald took a handoff on a jet sweep to the left and outraced the Dragons on a 62-yard burst to give the Panthers a 34-7 halftime advantage.
The two offenses would trade the first four scores of the second half. Davis had a 25-yard run for Pickens, which was answered just over a minute later by a 76-yard jet sweep from Montgomery. Goss hauled in another highlight-worthy TD pass with 2:14 left in the third, this one going for 31 yards, but Blackwell ripped off a 30-yard TD run on the opening play of the fourth quarter.
A Chris Bivins fumble recovery gave Ridgeland the ball back at its own 44 three plays later and Shelton went 39 yards on the second offensive play of the drive before Montgomery's 17-yard TD run and Conner Middleton's seventh extra point capped the scoring. Middleton, who had several touchbacks on kickoffs, was 7-of-8 on PAT's with one blocked.
Pickens, who had just 109 yards in the opening half - 65 coming on their initial scoring drive - racked up 260 yards in the second half to finish with 369 for the game, the most allowed by the Panthers this season.
Brumby was 11-of-26 for 170 yards. Goss had 87 yards on three catches, while Josh Cain picked up 68 yards on four catches. Davis finished with 94 rushing yards on 14 attempts.
"We need to be a little more efficient in the passing game, because it wasn't as good tonight as it has been," explained Tankersley, whose team completed just 3-of-12 passes for 27 yards. "We also need to make sure we keep up our intensity no matter what. Once we got up (tonight), our intensity kind of waned a little bit. That's something we need to work on because you never know, especially in the playoffs, because you may get up on someone there and they just might be good enough to come back on you.
"But (Pickens) has a good offensive football team too. They pose some problems with their sets. They have a quarterback that can throw it, a really good receiver and a really good running back too."
Now 8-0 for the first time in school history, the Panthers will try to make it nine in a row next Friday night as they will travel to Ellijay to face winless Gilmer. Ridgeland will conclude the regular season at home on Nov. 3 against Southeast Whitfield.