Nothing that happened during Ridgeland's 34-14 first-round GHSA playoff win over eighth-ranked Flowery Branch surprised coach Cortney Braswell, especially Jordan Blackwell's highlight-reel night.
The junior, the honoree for the latest BMW Performance of the Week, led the upset win offensively with 151 yards rushing and touchdown runs of 17, 34 and 10 yards and added a 25-yard interception return for another score.
For Braswell, it was just another high-effort game from his starting running back and his battle-tested team.
"We've had a hard road, so we feel we've had a trial by fire," said Braswell, whose 8-3 team has played five state-ranked teams this season. "We've had the opportunity to play some good teams — we've beaten some and had our teeth beaten in by some.
"Jordan has played hard all year and he came into Friday's game on the cusp of 1,000 yards, so it was great to see him accomplish that. He plays with such reckless abandonment. It's not his strength or speed: Jordan is like all great running backs in that he has an innate ability and resiliency to stay off the ground. They don't want to go to the ground, no matter what the defense is or how many guys are on them."
Blackwell deferred praise to his linemen and the Panthers' coaching staff.
"It all started off up front, and once they got it opened I just did what I could do," said the 6-foot, 170-pounder, who compares his running style to a mix of NFL stars Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley and Marshawn Lynch. "We came out ready to play because we knew it was win or die, and the coaches had us ready after a hard week of practice. We didn't play very well in our last game against Southeast Whitfield, but we were ready Friday."
The road only gets tougher this week as Ridgeland travels to second-ranked Cartersville. After facing the likes of Calhoun, Troup, Sandy Creek and Pickens in addition to Flowery Branch — teams with a combined 47-8 record — Blackwell believes the Panthers again will be ready.
"If we come out like we did this Friday, there is no doubt it will be a good game," he said. "The key is playing hard, knowing your assignments and doing what we do well. It's been a big help starting off with Calhoun, Troup and Sandy Creek. We knew after that what we were going to face in the playoffs and what it would take to win."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.