TUNNEL HILL, Ga. — Darrell Bridges might get his 2,000 yards after all.
The Ridgeland High School senior running back netted 239 yards and four touchdowns on 32 punishing carries Friday night to lead the Panthers to a 35-20 Region 7B-AAAA win at Northwest Whitfield.
The best news for Bridges and his dream of joining the 2,000 club was a Bruins team that made the visitors earn every yard.
"I can't do anything but thank my line," said Bridges after his career-best night. "They came out and hit us in the mouth a few times, but once we made some adjustments we hit right back and were fine. It's nice to play four quarters, and we know it's something we're going to have to do if we want to win in the playoffs."
Bridges scored on runs of 8, 1, 51 and 1 yards to lead a relentless ground game that amassed 473 yards on 60 rushes. Despite the success, though, the game was scoreless after the first quarter and Ridgeland (6-1, 3-0) held just a 14-7 lead at halftime.
"I didn't think at any time that this wasn't going to be a four-quarter game," Ridgeland coach Mark Mariakis said. "I reminded them of that at the half, and our kids responded well in the second half. We settled down and quit beating ourselves. We know we're not going to have those games in the playoffs where you can coast."
Ridgeland finally got some separation from the Bruins after causing a fumble near midfield. Seven runs later, Noah Cooper, who added 129 yards, scored from 12 yards out. The Bruins turned the ball over again on their next play at the Ridgeland 37 after a big gain, and Bridges made them pay with a 51-yard touchdown run on the final period's first play and a 28-7 lead.
"If there is somebody that runs harder than Darrell Bridges, I'd like to see him," Mariakis said. "Darrell is a punishing runner, but if he gets in the open his speed can hurt you, too. He had some big runs for us tonight."
Vonn Bell, though held in check most of the game, added 95 yards on the ground on nine carries. Chris Tinson had two touchdown runs to go with 89 yards rushing for Northwest, while quarterback Silas Ledford completed 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards.
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 ...