After trailing Pickens 26-10 with just over 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of the Region 7AAAA (A) game, River Ridge (5-4, 4-0) roared from behind to score 18 unanswered points to win 28-26 and become the first Cherokee County team to guarantee itself a state playoff berth.
The win came despite the Knights fumbling the ball four times, three of which were recovered by Pickens and converted into scores.
Though River Ridge coach Robert Braucht was quick to express his excitement for his team’s accomplishment, he feared that continued inconsistent play from the Knights would see them exit the postseason early.
“We’ve played sloppy the last two weeks in a row,” Braucht said. “If we are going to do anything past the regular season, we are going to have to get these mistakes fixed.”
River Ridge will have a big test in next week’s Region 7AAAA championship game — a trip to Ridgeland to rematch with the same Panthers team that beat them 42-8 earlier in the season.
The Knights weren’t the only ones to impress Friday night, as Sequoyah running back Blake Ingleton continued to close in on a 2,000-yard season by rushing for 230 yards on 21 carries against Cambridge.
Ingleton, who needs only 73 yards to meet the 2,000-yard mark, topped 200 yards in a game for the sixth time this season.
“I was expecting him to have a good year, but not to be where he is at right now,” Sequoyah coach James Teter said. “He’s had a great year, and he seems to get better each week.”
Ingleton is the leading rusher in Class AAAAA and the second-leading rusher in the state, behind only Cedartown’s Nick Chubb, who had tallied 2,360 yards entering Friday.
Now, with the Region 7AAAAA play-in game next, and a state playoff berth at stake, Ingleton and Sequoyah (6-3, 4-1) will face a familiar foe at Sprayberry.
The Chiefs beat the Yellow Jackets 41-37 at the same venue Sept. 28.
While Creekview (8-1, 5-0) will also travel next week to take on Riverwood in the region play-in, but it may be forced to play without three of their leading receivers.
After Brandon Wright ruptured his Achilles tendon earlier in the year, Connor Dulmage was sidelined for the Grizzlies’ 44-0 victory over North Springs on Friday due to a broken collar bone.
Then, in the third quarter of Friday’s game, leading receiver Hunter Udall left the game with a concussion.
Woodstock and Etowah both saw their playoff hopes suffer a blow Friday with their respective losses to Walton and Wheeler.
While Woodstock (3-6, 3-3 Region 5AAAAAA) needs only to defeat Milton next Friday to guarantee itself a spot in the playoffs, Etowah (4-5, 3-3) will need to upset undefeated Lassiter and hope that the Wolverines lose to Milton.
Cherokee (1-8, 0-6) saw its losing streak grow to seven Friday as it fell to Milton 49-7. With the loss, the Warriors were guaranteed to finish with the worst record of the county’s teams.