Ridgeland stuns Marist to clinch first state final appearance
ROSSVILLE, Ga. (WRCB) -- Daniel Johnson did not win the national Wendy's High School Heisman award Friday night.
In fact, the Ridgeland senior didn't even get to join the other eleven finalists in New York for the ceremony.
It doesn't bother him one bit.
Johnson is making plans for a different once-in-a-lifetime trip after Ridgeland used a blocked extra point and a trick play to stun visiting Marist 28-27 in the Class AAAA state semifinals and clinch its first-ever state championship game appearance.
"We knew it was going to be tough, but our kids just would not give up," said head coach Mark Mariakis. "They never panic, and that's made me so proud of these kids all season long. There's just something special about those guys.
"To come out and beat a good Marist team like this... I'm just speechless."
The Panthers (13-1) will play top-ranked and unbeaten Sandy Creek (14-0) at the Georgia Dome at 5:30 p.m. ET in next Saturday's state final at the Georgia Dome. Sandy Creek shut out Monroe Area 35-0 in the other semifinal.
Darrell Bridges, who'd been doing most of Ridgeland's heavy lifting on the ground this season, threw a pair of touchdown passes from his fullback spot, including the eventual game-winner to Shaqualm McCoy with 36 seconds to play.
"This is so unbelievable," Bridges said. "We've never been past the second round. Now to go to state? Oh man. We need to come away with a win and get us a ring this year.
"This is something you dream about as a freshman, watching other high schools going and playing for this. Now we're in that position, and we need to go and win a state championship."
The War Eagles drove to the Ridgeland 17-yard-line in the closing seconds, but Fletcher Malloy's 34-yard field goal attempt bounced off the upright and missed as time expired.
Just three minutes earlier, Marist quarterback Myles Willis broke a 21-all tie with a 26-yard touchdown run. However, Malloy's PAT was blocked by the Panthers to keep the score at 27-21.
Bridges added two touchdown runs, including an electric, game-changing 89-yard explosion to tie the game at 21-all early in the fourth, and finished with 164 yards rushing and 107 passing.
Vonn Bell finished with 127 total yards and caught a 57-yard touchdown pass from Bridges for Ridgeland's second score of the game.
"I'm on top of the world right now," said Bell, who played in front of a crowd of recruiters that included Alabama linebackers coach Lance Thompson. " We've been the underdog all year. We wanted to shock this world and shock this state, prove to everyone that Ridgeland plays some football up here and has some talent to show it."
Calhoun holds off Lamar County to earn fifth state title trip
CALHOUN, Ga. (WRCB) -- Donnell Anthony's interception in the end zone on the game's final play sealed Calhoun's 21-14 win over visiting Lamar County to send the Yellow Jackets back to the Class AA state championship game for a fifth straight year.
The defending champs will play Jefferson (13-1) at 2:30 p.m. ET next Saturday at the Georgia Dome. Jefferson blasted Greater Atlanta Christian 42-14 in Friday's other semifinal.
Alex Urbano rushed for 160 yards and two touchdowns to offset quarterback Taylor Lamb's career-low 64 passing yards. Lamb did add 83 yards rushing and the game's first score on a one-yard sneak in the first quarter.
Calhoun fumbled six times, but lost only one. The defense repeatedly came up with big stops to help an offense that, despite being one of the most explosive in the state all season, was shut out in the second half.
Anthony actually made two game-saving plays in the closing moments, knocking down a pass to the end zone on a Lamar County trick play before snagging the game-clinching interception as time expired.