High School Sports

Ridgeland scratches out win over Hardeeville, 19-12

With both teams guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, Friday's game between rivals Ridgeland High School and Hardeeville High School should have been about earning a higher playoff seed.

For all the fans in the stands and players on the field though, the most important thing was winning the Ben Riley Classic trophy.

Thanks to three touchdowns from standout running back Torray Amlett and a last-minute defensive stand from the Ridgeland defense, the Jaguars reclaimed the coveted trophy with a 19-12 victory.

It didn't come easy, though.

Clinging to a seven-point lead with two minutes left, Ridgeland coach Richard Kirkland decided to roll the dice, going for it on fourth-and-3 from the 50-yard line.

"With the off-tackle power (play), we had been getting four to five yards per clip," Kirkland said. "I looked and saw we only had a few yards to go so I said, 'We should be able to power through this.' "

This time, they didn't.

Hardeeville stopped Amlett a yard short and took over on its own 48.

With runs by Jamal Kinlaw, Jarrell Knighton and Donald Scott, the Hurricanes marched to the Ridgeland 28. That's where the Jaguars' defense made a stand.

On fourth-and-2, Ridgeland forced a Scott fumble recovered by Jaguars defender Rasheem Brown, giving Ridgeland its sixth consecutive victory.

It was a dramatic finish to a sloppy game that featured a combined seven turnovers and 161 yards in penalties.

"That game shouldn't have been that close," Kirkland said. "All the penalties and turnovers ... we're in Week 10 and this kind of (stuff) should have already been out of our system."

After a scoreless first quarter, Amlett broke loose for his first touchdown from 48 yards out. Two series later, Hardeeville answered with a 13-yard touchdown run by Scott, set up by a 68-yard pass from Scott to Dominique Riley.

Amlett scored his second touchdown later in the quarter to give Ridgeland a 13-6 lead at halftime. He added another with a two-yard run in the third quarter to put the Jaguars up 19-6.

Amlett finished with 120 yards on 17 carries.

"After I'm past the linemen and the linebackers , I'm gone and I ain't stopping," Amlett said.

Hardeeville got back into the game in the fourth quarter with another long pass to Riley, this time from 41 yards out. The big play set up an 8-yard touchdown run by Kinlaw to shave the lead to seven.

The Hurricanes may have gotten closer than that if not for five turnovers and 98 yards in penalties.

"Missed opportunities," Hardeeville coach Blake Raley said. "Bad luck, bad plays and turnovers hurt us."

Ridgeland running back Jerry Scott broke the 1,000-yard barrier early in the game. He finished with 69 yards on 12 carries and has 1,063 yards on the season. For Hardeeville, Knighton finished with 81 yards on 18 carries.

Both teams will learn their playoff seeds when brackets are released at 11 a.m. today. The seeds are based on a points system and Raley said late Friday he believes his team will host a playoff game next Friday.

Still, it won't erase the frustration of losing to its biggest rival.

"We understand every game is big, but you always circle this one," Raley said.