By KEVIN WEAKS
South Fulton took the lead on its first opportunity and never gave Ridgemont a chance to take it away.
The Red Devils scored 13 seconds into the second quarter, capping off a well-executed 13-play drive, and then spent much of the remainder playing keep-away for a 22-0 win over Ridgemont in the 17th Rebel Bowl for the Obion County School System junior high football championship Thursday night at Rebel Field in Troy.
South Fulton is now the winningest team in Rebel Bowl history with six championships, including five in the last six years. It marked just the third shutout in the game’s 17 years as well.
SF closed its season with an 8-1 record, while Ridgemont fell to 6-2 with both losses coming to the Redmen.
Jyriq Jones rushed 22 times for 122 yards and two scores, totals that far outshined Ridgemont’s team numbers. The Mustangs managed just 29 total yards on 19 plays, suffering three turnovers.
“Jyriq’s been our workhorse all year,” SF head coach Jeremy McFarland said. “The last time we played Ridgemont, Jyriq got a lot of carries because they loaded up the outside to stop our sweeps. Tonight, I thought would be a big game for our wings, but they were leaving us gaps in the middle. So, we were going to ride him until we couldn’t ride him any more. He actually hurt his ankle early in the first quarter, but he just played through it and kept toting the rock. He’s been that way the two years we’ve had him.”
SF’s lopsided time of possession advantage was highlighted during a stretch from the midway point of the second quarter until the final seconds of the third period where the Red Devils ran off 24 straight plays and scored once.
“When you don’t have enough snaps from center, especially running the spread like we do, you can’t get into a rhythm and a flow,” Ridgemont head man Lance Gray said. “Coach McFarland and his staff are class acts, and they do a good job coaching their kids up. It came down to X’s and O’s and who was going to get the stop when they needed the stop, and we just didn’t get enough stops.”
Led by Jones, the Red Devils gained all of their 194 yards on the ground, running 47 times. SF had 14 first downs to just three for the Mustangs.
SF’s wing-T offensive assault with both punishing and methodical, and it began with the Red Devils’ first possession.
After holding the Mustangs on downs, overcoming a facemask penalty on the game’s first play, South Fulton embarked on a 65-yard scoring drive that took 13 plays and carried over into the second quarter.
McFarland spread the wealth as four different Devils carried the ball. Zaccius Mays totaled 27 yards on five carries, Jones had four tries for 17 yards and Kody Davidson added spurts of 15 and 10 yards.
“They have three of the better running backs that we’ve seen all year, and we’ve played some awfully good teams,” Gray said. “(Jyriq) hits the hole so hard and fast. He’s such an outstanding runner, and I knew we were going to have our hands full.”
Jones’ six-yard burst up the middle at 7:47 of the second frame finished the march, and then Davidson ran in the two-point conversion for the 8-0 lead.
The lead stood up the rest of the half. Ridgemont gave away possession on an interception, and then SF ended the half with a fumble after driving from its own 47 to the Ponies’ three on 10 plays.
South Fulton then started the second half with yet another grinding drive, Jones getting the call on nine of the 10 plays and putting up 42 yards. He finished with a two-yard run with 2:53 to play in the third quarter and then tacked on the conversion for the 16-0 lead.
Ridgemont then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and SF followed with four more plays before fumbling possession back to the Mustangs.
“There were a lot of similarities between this game and the last time we played them,” McFarland said. “That last one, we took the second half kickoff and ran off the entire third quarter and two minutes of the fourth. That’s big because they’re a shotgun spread offense, and they have the ability to score quickly with the stuff they run. Anytime we can keep the football and run the clock, whether we score or not, that plays in our favor.”
A sack by Mays and a pass break-up over the middle by linebacker Hunter Hamilton stopped Ridgemont and gave SF the ball back just 19 yards away from the end zone. Six plays, including four carries by Jones, set up Mays for a two-yard TD run at 3:08 of the fourth period.
Insult to injury finished off the Mustangs’ frustrating night on offense when quarterback Bruce Ragsdale threw his second interception of the game, just one play after his screen to Jaylee Hobbs for a 59-yard touchdown was called back for having too many players on the field.
Published in The Messenger 10.12.12