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ROSSVILLE, Ga. — The Madison County Red Raiders won a thrilling 27-20 game against the Ridgeland Panthers on Friday to advance to the second round of the GHSA playoffs for the first time in school history.

The Class AAA game featured two dynamic rushing attacks that were unstoppable early. Madison County running back Martavian Cooper recorded the first score of the game when he broke free for a 46-yard touchdown run.

"We knew coming in that they were going to run the triple option, and we knew we would have to corral the quarterback," Ridgeland coach Kip Klein said. "It was a tough back-and-forth game and was a great, tough battle."

The Red Raiders (5-6) followed up the score with an onside kick but ended up turning the ball over on downs at the Panthers' 36-yard line.

Ridgeland running back Terrance Roberts took advantage of his team's defensive stand by reeling off a 57-yard touchdown run. A missed extra-point try kept Madison County in the lead, but a fumble on its next possession gave the home team a chance to pull ahead.

The Panthers (6-5) did just that when Jordan Blackwell sneaked into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 1.

The Red Raiders seized momentum right away in the second half when they recovered the opening onside kick. They capped a 35-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Colby Smith to Cooper.

The Panthers' following drive ended on their 16, where they failed to convert a pivotal fourth-and-1. On the next play, Cooper burst through the line for a 16-yard touchdown to give the Red Raiders a 20-13 lead.

Ridgeland could not get its offense going on the next possession but managed to pin down Madison County at the 2 with a 59-yard punt. The Panthers then forced a fumble to give their offense the ball on the 3, and they tied the score with a 3-yard run by Roberts.

With 7:03 left in the fourth quarter, Madison County began a drive on its 25. A flurry of runs and penalties culminated in a 5-yard Dayton Gresham touchdown run that put the Red Raiders up 27-20 with only 1:55 left.

Madison County's defense was able to do the rest, grabbing an interception to end the game.

Contact Dan Kopf at sports@timesfreepress.com.

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