Ridgeland defensive back Vonn Bell is one of two Super 11 players still playing — Dooly County’s Montravius Adams is the other — and he and his teammates get the task of defending the state’s most balanced offense. Bell defending against Sandy Creek’s Demarre Kitt could be one of the best individual matchups of the state finals.
Here are a handful of questions to consider leading up to the Class AAAA state championship between 13-1 Ridgeland and 14-0 Sandy Creek:
Which poison will Ridgeland pick? Stopping the Sandy Creek running game or stopping Sandy Creek passing game. The Patriots sport a 2,000-yard passer in quarterback Cole Garvin, who completed 12 of 16 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown Friday night against Monroe Area. They also have a 1,000-yard receiver (Demarre Kitt) and two 1,000-yard running backs (Eric Swinney and Delvin Weems). All that has translated to a team that averages 43.9 points per game.
How will Sandy Creek’s defense fare against Darrell Bridges and Vonn Bell? Ridgeland runs the ball. And then they run it some more. Bridges, the fullback in the Panthers’ wing-T scheme, has nearly 2,300 rushing yards and has scored 39 touchdowns. Bell, who lines up as a halfback, has over 1,000 rushing. Bridges also brings an x-factor – a former quarterback, he can throw. Friday night against Marist, he had more than 100 yards passing on halfback passes. Ridgeland averages 42.1 points per game. On the other hand, Sandy Creek held Monroe Area to 117 total yards Friday night, and the best wing-T team they’ve faced — Carrollton — managed just over 100 yards.
Will it be a shootout or a defensive struggle? The offensive numbers for both teams point toward shootout. Ridgeland had scored 35 points or more in every game until Friday night. A similar scenario was in play for the 2010 AAA final, when high-octane Sandy Creek faced high-octane Carrollton, but it turned into a defensive slugfest, which Sandy Creek won 14-7.
How will Ridgeland respond to the spotlight? Sandy Creek has been here before. The Patriots are going for their third state title in four years and have won 55 of 57 games in that time. While this year marked the seventh straight playoff appearance for Ridgeland, the Panthers will be in a completely new environment in the Georgia Dome.
How will the kickers do? Both Sandy Creek’s Mitchell McMillin and Ridgeland’s Evan Courtney are solid, but the only pressure kick either has attempted this season was Courtney’s last extra point Friday night that provided the margin in a 28-27 win over Marist.