It took almost six years, but the Ridgeland Panthers finally got their revenge on Sandy Creek.
In the two teams' first meeting since losing the 2012 Class 4A state championship game, Ridgeland used a fourth-quarter safety to break a 21-21 tie and their defense did the rest as they stunned the favored Patriots, 23-21, Friday night in Tyrone.
“Anytime you get a win, it feels good,” said head coach Cortney Braswell, who earned his first victory with the Panthers. “But to get this one at their place, under these circumstances, was special.”
Sandy Creek scored first on a 12-yard run to go up 7-0 after one quarter, but Ridgeland used a 59-yard TD run by A’zavier Blackwell to get on the board with 10:10 left in the first half. A fake PAT led to the 2-point conversion catch by Terrance Roberts and Ridgeland led 8-7.
The Patriots would regain the lead as quarterback Jamel Lewis recovered his own fumble and raced 21 yards for a score, but it would only be a brief lead as Blackwell stunned the home crowd with a 99-yard kick return and the ensuing PAT put Ridgeland back in front, 15-14. Sandy Creek would miss a chance to retake the lead as they missed a field goal at the end of the half.
However, the Patriots would stick it in the endzone with 6:07 left in the third quarter as a 3-yard run by Lewis put them ahead 21-15. Undaunted, Ridgeland responded and tied the game on an 8-yard run by Tanner Hill 51 seconds in the fourth – the PAT was no good - before turning things over to the defense.
After pinning the Patriots deep in their own territory, Ridgeland forced a fumble, which Sandy Creek was able to fall on at their own 1-yard line. Moments later, while punting out of its own endzone, the Sandy Creek punter stepped out of bounds to give Ridgeland the go-ahead safety with 8:17 remaining in the game.
The defense would continue to hold the Patriots at bay the rest of the way to give Ridgeland arguably one of its biggest all-time regular season wins.
“As a defensive-minded coach, you want the opportunity to put your defense out there with a chance to win the game,” Braswell added. “We’ve given up some big plays this season, but they came up big with a sack and some great pass defense late. To go down there and beat such a good and well-coached team just says so much about the resiliency of our kids.”
Sandy Creek outgained Ridgeland in total yards, 320-188. Jordan Blackwell rushed 17 times for 70 yards, while A’zavier Blackwell had 65 yards on just three carries. Hill had five rushes for 46 yards and was 4-of-8 passing for 21 yards.
Ridgeland improved to 1-2 overall after their three-game season-opening gauntlet and will now turn its attention to the start of Region 6-AAAA play. The Panthers will enjoy another bye week before hosting Heritage on Sept. 21.