ORANGE PARK - Ridgeview High football’s point-per-minute offense and two huge coaching decisions offset an unsteady performance by the defense as the Panthers notched their …
ORANGE PARK - Ridgeview High football’s point-per-minute offense and two huge coaching decisions offset an unsteady performance by the defense as the Panthers notched their third straight win to start the season, a 51-36 victory over visiting Westside Thursday, Sept. 7 at Ridgeview High School.
Ridgeview wide receiver Denali Lindo was the most potent of Ridgeview’s multiple offensive weapons, scoring long-range touchdowns three of the five times he touched the ball while amassing 220 all-purpose yards. He traveled 42 yards down the left sideline on a jet sweep to score on Ridgeview’s first possession, ran under a deep ball from quarterback Tyler Huff to give the Panthers’ a 20-6 lead in the second quarter, and scored a clinching touchdown on a 55-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter. The sophomore set up another score with a twisting, weaving 64-yard kickoff return.
“Lindo had a good night and played well. But he is one of many that can touch the ball and are dynamic,“ said Ridgeview coach Cameron Porch.
The Ridgeview attack was as balanced as it was effective. Eight different ball carriers pounded out 223 rushing yards for the Panthers, led by Caleb Plyler’s 88 yards on 13 carries. Meanwhile, quarterback Tyler Huff used five different receivers in throwing for 189 yards and three scores.
“We do not want to ride one guy,” explained Porch. “If we distribute the ball, we feel like we will be the fresher team in the second half, and I think you saw that tonight.”
The Panthers further pressure defenses by operating a no-huddle offense, running play after play in rapid succession to prevent the defense from substituting. The results have been an average of 51 points per game and only the second 3-0 start in school history.
Two coaching decisions by Porch helped turn an evenly matched affair in favor of the hosts.
After Lindo had matched Westside’s game-opening scoring drive with his scoring run, Porch turned the tables on the Wolverines by ordering a short, high kick from kicker Charlie Barrett. Barrett executed perfectly, and Ridgeview senior Kiaran Turner, racing downfield, caught the ball in the air at the Westside 40 before any Wolverine had a chance to field it. The Panthers gained an extra possession, and senior running back Trent Coleman made it pay off, scoring on a 14 yard run four plays later. Instead of trying to match the Westside offense all evening, Ridgeview forced the Wolverines to play catch-up.
Porch’s other critical call was his decision to go for it with the Panthers facing a fourth and three at the Westside 25 yard line after the Wolverines had cut a 28-6 deficit to 28-21. Huff faked a handoff and hit Turner in stride on a skinny post for a touchdown to put the Panthers ahead 34-21 two minutes before halftime.
The Panthers needed every bit of offensive firepower and coaching savvy to offset a defense that was shredded for 441 passing yards by Westside’s Adrion Webster, and allowed 525 yards overall.
“They did a good job of isolating routes, and their quarterback did a good job of dropping the ball in the bucket,” said Porch.
Webster’s favorite target was fellow senior David White, who led all receivers with eight catches for 218 yards, Nelson Pagan added 160 yards receiving and a touchdown on four receptions.
Turner returned the second half kickoff 32 yards to the Westside 45 yard line. The Panthers seized control with a six-play march that was capped by another 14 yard scoring run by Coleman.
Huff finished with three touchdown passes, two to Lindo and one to Turner. Standley Thomas had four rushing touchdowns for the visitors.
The Panthers begin District 5-5A play at Palatka Friday, September 15. Ridgeview lost to Palatka 35-30 in 2016 when an errant punt snap led to a game-winning touchdown in the game’s final moments.
“We are going to face a similarly athletic team next week,” said Porch. “If we tackle better, I think we will be all right.”
Westside, now 0-3, begins District 4-5A play Friday by hosting Ponte Vedra.