Mark Mariakis had a solid strategy going into his first GHSA football playoff coin flip Saturday morning: Let the other guy be the goat.
So when the Ridgeland coach met with veteran Marist coach Alan Chadwick, Mariakis did the flipping and Chadwick the calling. Advantage Ridgeland.
"Hey, I didn't want to be blamed for making the wrong call," said Mariakis, whose 12-1 Panthers will host the War Eagles in a Class AAAA semifinal game Friday. "It should be a great night for our community and our program."
Calhoun coach Hal Lamb, a veteran coin-flipper, likewise won his toss Saturday morning. As a result, the 13-0 Yellow Jackets will host surprising Lamar County (12-0-1) Friday in a Class AA semifinal.
Trion's run in the Class A public school playoffs ended with a 27-10 loss Friday night at Emanuel County Institute. Trion (9-3) held a 10-7 first-half lead before ECI rallied.
Ridgeland earned the right to play in its first semifinal game with an impressive 45-14 win over Mary Persons, while Marist (12-1), a program with a long history of postseason success, won a defensive battle over Stockbridge, 15-7.
The Panthers got another 200-yard rushing game from senior running back Darrell Bridges, a dominating night from the offensive line and a strong night from a defense suddenly believing in itself. Mary Persons did not get its first first down until midway through the third quarter.
"It really was a complete win," Mariakis said. "We're just doing what we do, nothing fancy, and that's just what Marist does."
Calhoun, the reigning Class AA state champion, blew second-ranked Brooks County out of Phil Reeve Stadium, 49-14, as quarterback Taylor Lamb passed for 358 yards and four touchdowns and added two scores on the ground. This Friday's opponent, Lamar County, held off Lovett, 35-28, to reach the semis in the first season under coach Franklin Stephens.
Hal Lamb, 4-2 all-time in coin flips, understands what it takes to play in front of his rowdy fans.
"Any time you can play at home in the playoff game, it makes a difference," he said. "People don't realize what it takes to win a game here. Larmar's good, though. I understand they're very fast and very well coached. They run the wing-T, so it will be a little different from what we've seen in the past."