The chill in the air Friday signaled the start of playoff football in South Carolina.
And with the change in temperature, Ridgeland football coach Richard Kirkland changed his mentality. The way you win this time of year doesn't matter, he told his staff.
The Jaguars started strong and then held on through some sluggish behavior late to defeat Johnsonville 27-15 in the opening round of the Class 1-A Division I playoffs at Jasper County Stadium. Ridgeland, with its seventh consecutive victory, earned a rematch it has coveted since September.
Bamberg-Ehrhardt was the last team to deal Kirkland's team a loss, way back on Sept. 17. The teams will meet again next week at Bamberg-Ehrhardt for the right to go to the Lower State final.
"That's a huge game," Kirkland said. "The kids want a rematch. And we want to keep winning, moving towards a state championship."
The Jaguars led 20-0 after the first quarter Friday, after two touchdown runs from Torray Amlett and a 75-yard touchdown catch-and-run from Xavier Capers to Tyron Mikell.
For a while, Ridgeland was handling Johnsonville's wishbone offense and kept the Flashes from positive total yardage until late in the first half.
Ridgeland linebacker Alvin Brown said the Jaguars were prepared for the run, that Johnsonville fans talked on the Internet during the week about the damage their running backs would do.
"I guess they never saw a defense like our defense," Brown said. "They never met a hardcore defense like ours, that will stop the run like we stopped it."
Johnsonville's backs finally made progress and controlled the clock behind tailback Brison Allison. The Johnsonville sophomore, stuffed his first few series, led a six-minute drive during the second quarter that ended with his 6-yard touchdown run.
But Johnsonville was never really in the game. Ridgeland held the ball too long.
Jaguars backs Torray Amlett and Jerry Scott combined for 205 yards on the ground. Amlett entered the game needing only 20 yards to join Scott in breaking the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season.
The Jags were slowed late by a series of head-scratching penalties, most of which were unsportsmanlike conduct flags or personal fouls. They were whistled 12 times for 120 yards during the game.
But, as Kirkland said, the Jags didn't need to play perfect, only to advance. The late-game slip-ups might have seemed familiar, though.
Kirkland's team led Bamberg-Ehrhardt 33-14 entering the fourth quarter when the Region 5-A foes met during the regular season. The Red Raiders took to the air and rallied for a 35-33 victory on their way to the region title.
"We knew for sure we were going to see Bamberg again," Brown said. "We want to come back with a victory."