In a clash of contrasting offensive styles, flash through the air beat out a gritty running game.
Northwest Whitfield High School had three big scoring plays as it bounced back from its only loss of the season and topped Ridgeland 21-10 Friday night in a Sub-region 7B-4A matchup at Bowers and Painter Field.
“The big play was good to us. Overall, we played well,” Northwest coach Josh Robinson said. “They had a good scheme for us defensively, to be honest with you. They were prepared, but at the same time our boys fought very, very hard.”
On offense, Northwest (6-1, 2-1) used a spread package and a hurry-up offense to maximize its number of snaps. On the other side, Ridgeland (2-5, 1-2) used a wing-T running attack to maximize its time of possession.
Northwest’s first long scoring pass came midway through the first quarter. On first-and-10 from Ridgeland’s 35, Bruins quarterback Caleb Shiflett found wide receiver Tevin McDaniel wide open. The Bruins were left with the 6-0 lead when a two-point conversion failed.
The next big play came in the second quarter as Shiflett hit another wide open receiver — this time Andy Whisenant — for a 28-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion gave Northwest a 14-0 lead with 9:48 left.
But Ridgeland didn’t quit. The Panthers answered with a seven-play, 74-yard scoring drive, all of it on the ground. Running back Calvin Davenport took a handoff, swept around right end and raced 40 yards for a touchdown with 6:12 left in the second quarter, and the extra point cut Northwest’s lead to 14-7, where the score remained until near the end of the third quarter.
That’s when Ridgeland kicker Ivan Ojeda nailed a 38-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 14-10. But the theme of the big play returned. Northwest used two quick plays, aided by a personal foul facemask penalty, to score as Shiflett hit Whisenant again for a 40-yard touchdown. The extra point put Northwest up 21-10.
“We gave up too many big plays on defense, which kills you,” Ridgeland coach Mark Mariakis said. “That’s a very good football team over there. They’re good defensively. They’re stingy.”
Running backs Caderius Ward (26 carries, 101 yards) and Davenport (19 carries, 111 yards) paced the Panthers on offense.
Shiflett finished 10 of 22 passing for 238 yards with no interceptions. McDaniel had five catches for 107 yards while Whisenant had four for 112.
Statistics aside, Northwest senior defensive lineman Isaiah Mack was impressed with the win, especially after last week’s loss to Dalton.
“It’s big,” Mack said. “It shows us we’re still the best. It shows we can come back after adversity.”