High School Sports

Ridgeland players ready for rematch with Bamberg-Ehrhardt

Ridgeland and Bamberg-Ehrhardt traded recent game footage before the week in preparation for today's Class 1-A Division I Lower State football semifinal.

But for the Jaguars, there was really only one game on their mind. The teams' first meeting, on Sept. 17, left a mark. And Ridgeland has been gearing for the rematch since.

The Jaguars made last week's playoff victory over Johnsonville sound like a mere formality.

"We're looking forward to it, for sure," linebacker Alvin Brown said. "That's what we want. That's what we came and played so hard for, so we could get Bamberg again. We were supposed to win that game."

That game was the one Ridgeland let get away early in the season. The Jaguars had their region rivals down 33-14 entering the fourth quarter. That's right, a 19-point deficit.

Ridgeland was stopping the run but was unprepared when the Red Raiders aired it out during their comeback. Three fourth-quarter scores left the Jaguars dazed and kept Bamberg-Ehrhardt on track for an unbeaten regular season.

Jaguars coach Richard Kirkland remembers the turning point like this: The Red Raiders converted a fourth-and-10 on a pass interference call. The next play was a 70-yard pass play for a touchdown.

"Then we stalled out on offense," Kirkland said. "Our kids started to hang their heads. (Bamberg) got it back. Boom-boom. Touchdown again. It was just one of those things where we lost the momentum, they stepped up and started passing all over us. Our offense couldn't keep the ball and run clock off."

Ridgeland has won all eight of its games since the letdown. Its streak has been fueled by a run game that limits the other team's touches and a defense that still punishes the run.

Brown said he expects the Red Raiders to have prepared some additional blocking schemes after the Jaguars stopped the run during the first meeting. Jaguars safety Tyron Mikell said Bamberg would likely try the same pattern, to open with the run but then go to the air if need be. He said Ridgeland would have to be more prepared with a safety over top, that the Red Raiders exploited the Jaguars' man-coverage during the comeback.

Kirkland's team enjoyed home-field advantage the first time the teams met. The Jags will be on the road today. Kirkland said he hoped Ridgeland could bring a crowd.

"What a good way to meet somebody that beat you late in the game," Kirkland said. "Now we're going to see them in the second round of the playoffs. Winner of that goes to play for Lower State. That's a good situation to be in."

Who: Ridgeland (8-3, 6-1 Region 5-A) at Bamberg-Ehrhardt (11-0, 7-0 Region 5-A)

When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Bamberg-Ehrhardt

Projected starters

Ridgeland

Offense: QB Xavier Capers, RB Tyboshie Mikell, RB Jerry Scott, RB Torray Amlett, WR Hamilton Harris, WR Tyron Mikell, OT Jacque Polite, OT Aaron Watson, OG Larry Jackson, OG Wesley Scott, C Damon Jackson

Defense: DT Jaquel Howard, DT Larry Jackson, DE Jacquel Polite, DE Wesley Scott, LB Derrick Solomon, LB Damon Gadson, OLB Jerry Scott, OLB Shaquille Grant, CB Immanual White, CB Xavier Capers, FS Tyron Mikell

Special teams: K Xavier Capers, P Tyron Mikell, R Torray Amlett, R Shaquille Grant

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