ROSSVILLE, Ga. — A heavy downpour could not cool the steam of the Ridgeland Panthers football team eager to make a run at Georgia's Region 6-AAAA title.
Behind a new-look blocking scheme, seniors Jordan Blackwell and Terrance Roberts led a fired-up rushing attack to 426 yards in a 41-28 home victory over Pickens Friday night. "Our loss to them last year had me and my teammates ready to go," said Blackwell, who rushed for 228 yards and three touchdowns and returned an interception 55 yards for the clinching score in the fourth quarter. "We want to reclaim the region title this year. We had to put the past to the side and play hard no matter what the weather was like."
Building its win streak to three, Ridgeland (4-4, 3-1) got off to a fast and furious start, even in waterlogged jerseys and pads.
The first two carries from the dynamic rushing duo went for scores, including a 92-yard burst up the gut for Roberts behind a great block by junior fullback Jeremiah Turner. Roberts ran for 160 yards, and he and Turner both came up with big stops defensively in the first half.
"We changed up the blocking scheme about two weeks ago and have started to see more explosive plays out of our backfield," Panthers coach Kip Klein said. "We have two featured backs who have power and finesse. Jeremiah did a great job going both ways tonight and was blocking his tail off."
Pickens (5-4, 3-2) had success through the air as C.J. Streicher threw for 225 yards on a night both teams had problems handling the snaps.
With the Dragons looking to cut further into a 31-21 deficit, Blackwell and Torrance Roberts read the quarterback's eyes well to make crucial interceptions halfway through the fourth quarter.
Blackwell had rushing scores of 25, 66 and 48 yards and was impossible to catch when he got free on the outside.
"I credit my offensive line and fullback," Blackwell said. "If they aren't picking up blocks, it gets a lot tougher out here. This is a big win for us. We are building day by day and focused on finishing strong."
Ridgeland all-state kicker Conner Middleton drilled 32- and 42-yard field goals.
With a region clash at Gilmer next week, Ridgeland needs to win and then have Heritage beat Northwest Whitfield on Nov. 8 to be crowned region champion.
"I challenged the guys because we went over to Pickens last year and lost our region title," Klein said. "The only way to bring it back was to win this game. We came and played with an attitude and left nothing to chance."