“That’s a really good team we played, and to be honest, they are where we want to be,” River Ridge coach Robert Braucht said of Ridgeland. “They have been to the playoffs (six times) in a row, and you look up at their scoreboard and see they have more championships than we have years as a school.
“They came out early and capitalized on our mistakes, and it snowballed from there. You can’t put the ball on the ground against any team, much less a team like that.”
After a fumbled handoff on the Knights’ opening possession, Ridgeland fullback Darrell Bridges scored the first of his three touchdowns on the Panthers’ first play from scrimmage, rumbling in from 16 yards to make the score 7-0 just 2 minutes into the game.
A muffed kickoff put the ball back in Ridgeland’s hands, and Panthers quarterback Trevor Long connected with Vonn Bell on the ensuing play for a 12-yard touchdown pass to give the home team a 14-0 lead after two offensive plays.
Bridges added touchdown runs of 34 and 75 yards in the first half, Long scampered in from 6 yards out and Shaqualm McCoy added a sixth Ridgeland touchdown to bring the score to 42-0 at halftime.
Ridgeland (1-1) outgained River Ridge (0-3) 331-39 in the first two quarters, posting 15 first downs on the backs of a running game that rolled up 313 first-half yards.
“The good thing is, our kids don’t give up. If you don’t slice their throat, you’re not going to kill them,” Braucht said. “We came out in the second half and I don’t care who they had on the field, our kids played hard,” said Braucht.
River Ridge’s Steven Spears, who also played quarterback, picked off Long on the first play of the second half to take a bit of momentum.
On offense, Spears led all Knights runners with 51 yards on four carries and scored a third-quarter touchdown from a yard out to spoil the Ridgeland shutout. Spears completed his only pass of the game on the subsequent 2-point conversion to cut the lead to 42-8.
Vince Njoku and Michael Lewis each had 31 yards rushing for River Ridge. Mason Liner had a second-half sack, and Will Redding recovered a fumble in the third quarter to help the Knights keep Ridgeland out of the end zone for the final two quarters.
River Ridge will return home next week to take on LaFayette, the second of three Region 7AAAA crossover games for the Knights.