Tanner Hill understands that for Ridgeland to be all it can be this football season, he has to make some big plays.
The senior quarterback did just that Friday night in a wild 53-28 home win over Region 6-AAAA rival Heritage, throwing for 193 yards and three touchdowns while adding 85 yards and two scores on the ground.
After the Generals (1-4, 0-1) dominated the first quarter on the way to a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter, the Panthers (2-2, 1-0) scored 33 points before halftime to blow the game open.
"It was nice to see the perimeter game open up for us, because it hasn't up until tonight," Ridgeland coach Cortney Braswell said. "It's good to see Tanner come into his own tonight. He's starting to understand the concepts of what we want to do, and it's going to be fun to see him continue to progress.
"They did a really good job of controlling the ball in the first quarter. We didn't do a good job of getting them off the field on third down. However, our kids responded and forced some turnovers and gave ourselves a boost."
After Heritage scored on a Nick Hanson quarterback sneak on the first play of the second quarter, Ridgeland wasted little time getting going after running only three plays in the opening 12 minutes. Jordan Blackwell capped a 56-yard drive with a 2-yard run to help tie the game, and seconds later Dylan Swanson recovered a fumble at the Heritage 41.
Hill capped the quick drive with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Stephon Walker. After an interception from Cyron Burse, A'zavier Blackwell broke off a 38-yard touchdown run to help Ridgeland take a 20-7 lead.
Burse then caused a fumble at the Heritage 49, and five plays later Hill scored on a 30-yard keeper with 1:13 left in the half. The Panthers, though, weren't finished. After they forced a three-and-out series for the Generals, Hill connected with Torrance Roberts for a 57-yard touchdown to cap the dizzying quarter
"We finally came out and executed like we are supposed to, and we got the passing game going," Hill said. "I had three touchdown passes only because I have great receivers. I just have to throw it up, and they can take it to the house. It's nice to know I don't have to throw perfect balls, because they can go up and get them."
Hill later added a 53-yard touchdown run and a 60-yard scoring pass to the speedy Walker, who finished with two catches, both scores, and 89 yards. A'zavier Blackwell finished with a pair of touchdown runs, with Jordan Blackwell leading the Panthers with 86 yards on nine carries.
Heritage quarterback Hanson was 20-for-28 passing with second-half touchdown passes to Nolan Letzgus (12 catches for 111 yards), Cade Kiniry and Dylan Bryan. Jeffery Curtis piled up 103 yards on 22 carries.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6296. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.