It only took 10 games for Jahmaal Nelson to show that he could get the job done as a head coach.
The first-year hire secured another accolade in his successful debut season, guiding Ridgeland-Hardeeville to a share of the Region 5-AA title. The clincher came in the form of a 57-13 win over Edisto (0-10, 0-5) at home on Senior Night.
It is the first region championship the Jaguars (7-3, 4-1) have won since the consolidation of Ridgeland and Hardeeville high schools.
"It feels wonderful," Nelson said. "I really enjoy it for these guys."
Over the course of 10 regular season games, Nelson and his team have tinkered with a new offense, position changes and new formations. They've struggled through games against larger area schools and pulled off a few upsets. What became clear Friday is that somewhere along the way, they found a winning formula, one that makes them suddenly a dangerous outfit as next week's Class 2-A playoff opener looms.
The Jaguars got a pair of kickoff return touchdowns -- including one to start the game -- by Kamrin Williams, and two touchdowns by senior Gavin Bush.
The Jaguars will now have the benefit of a home game in seven day's time. On this night, however, Nelson insisted that the focus remained on defeating the winless Cougars.
Ridgeland-Hardeeville made it tougher than it needed to be, racking up 15 penalties.
"We've got some little things, issues," Nelson said. "Those kinds of things right there hurt."
Ultimately, the Jaguars got the job done They did so in a style fans have become accustomed to seeing, leaning on their star seniors -- Bush and Craven Howard -- and a strong supporting cast to share the workload.
Bush was his normal self, gashing the Edisto defense and flashing his big-play ability to pace the offense, though he did have an injury scare late in the second quarter. Edisto found some success early, utilizing the mobility of quarterback Daniel Seawright to get a second touchdown early in the second quarter.
The Jaguars, however, were more than happy to come away with a win. Even offensive lineman Ashley Mitchell got in the act with a 1-yard touchdown run, to go along with three from quarterback Tre Robinson.
"I feel good now, I've got everything right," Robinson said.
Nelson praised his team's dedication to implementing a new system, new expectations and a new culture. The rewards for such investment were a host of smiling faces, a supportive crowd and plenty of postgame exuberance. With a region championship secured, Nelson and his players can finally turn their attention to more lofty aspirations. After all, another title would be even sweeter than this one.
"The playoffs, it's a whole different ballgame," Nelson said. "We just have to get ready for the challenge."
Ridgeland-Hardeeville 57, Edisto 13
Edisto 6 7 0 0 -- 13
Ridgeland-Hardeeville 27 8 16 6 -- 57
R-H -- Kamrin Williams 92 kickoff return (Kick failed) 11:42
R-H -- Gavin Bush 42 run (Kick good) 10:12
Edisto -- Markell McKeithan 73 kickoff return (Kick failed) 9:53
R-H -- Bush 58 run (Kick good) 8:57
R-H -- Tre Robinson 8 run (Kick good) 3:55
Edisto -- Daniel Seawright 8 run (Black kick)10:28
R-H -- Williams 75 kickoff return (Pass good)10:12
R-H -- Robinson 30 run (Pass good) 9:04
R-H -- Robinson 1 run (Run good) 8:41
R-H -- Ashley Mitchell 1 run (Run failed) 11:42