In a matter of five minutes Friday night, Ridgeland High School football coach Mark Mariakis got a double dose of good news.
Moments before the Panthers (11-1) secured a Class AAAA quarterfinal berth with a 41-34 win over LaGrange, a loud cheer arose at Bowers and Painter Field when the announcement was made that Mary Persons had defeated Cairo in overtime, 3-0.
Because of the win by lower-seeded Mary Persons (10-2), Ridgeland will host their game this Friday.
If Cairo, like Ridgeland a No. 1 seed, had won, a coin flip would have been needed to determine this week's host. Mary Persons saved Mariakis a late-night trip.
"It's going to be nice to be home. I didn't want to travel six hours to Cairo," a smiling Mariakis said after Friday's win. "I thought I was going to Macon tonight for the flip. It's just great for this team to make history."
Calhoun coach Hal Lamb was not so fortunate. He had to travel Saturday morning to meet Brooks County counterpart Maurice Freeman for a coin flip to determine the host team for a quarterfinal meeting between the state's top two ranked Class AA teams, each 12-0. Lamb's trip proved fruitful, however, as he won the flip so his Yellow Jackets will host the Trojans.
Also still alive in Georgia is surprising Trion, which upset Irwin County on Friday, 31-6, in the Class A public school playoffs. The Bulldogs (9-2) will play at Emanuel County Institute (10-1), which defeated Gordon Lee on Friday.
Calhoun is in the quarterfinal round for the ninth consecutive year, while Trion is making its first quarterfinal appearance since 2003. Ridgeland will play the first quarterfinal game in program history, something that isn't lost on star senior Vonn Bell.
"We had to come out here and make a big statement in front of our fans," Bell said. "We wanted to make plays for this community and give them something to cheer about. We've got to keep playing like we did to get this far. The results speak for themselves, and we just want to keep moving on."
With Boyd-Buchanan's loss Friday, the Chattanooga area will not have a representative in the TSSAA championships in Cookeville this week for the first time since 2008.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...