MACCLENNY – A 35-21 loss to Baker County stung pretty good for the Ridgeview High football team, but the emotions laid out at the post-game team huddle were worthy of any football highlight film. …
MACCLENNY – A 35-21 loss to Baker County stung pretty good for the Ridgeview High football team, but the emotions laid out at the post-game team huddle were worthy of any football highlight film.
“I was glad to be a part of the legacy we tried to establish,” said senior offensive lineman Josh Kuseck, as the seniors for coach Cameron Porch’s turnaround season ended with a 6-4 record. “I wish a lot of people could experience the love and camaraderie of what happened this year.”
For the record, Baker County, the twice district 5-5A champion with decisive wins over Clay High in 2016 and 2017, came into the game figuring to stomp Ridgeview with their rugged offensive attack, but it was a defensive play, a fumbled Ridgeview punt snap with a Wildcat recovery, that set the Panthers back on their heels very fast.
“We learned how to win a little better this year and we’ll continue to get better,” said Porch, named the Florida Athletics Coaches Association coach of the year for his season turnaround from an 0-10 first year in 2016. “I think the players that return will have a better expectation as far as the level of play from the better teams on our schedule.” Ridgeview opened the season with six straight wins before hitting the meat of their schedule with Fleming Island, Clay, Menendez and Baker County all exacting losses for the final four games of the season. “It’s a sweet and sour feeling right now,” said linebacker Mark Butler. “I think the Palatka game was our turnaround because we got behind and had to fight back for the win. I knew we had something after that game that would push us for the season.”
Against Baker County, with the ball on the Panther 21, it took just two plays for Baker County to score.
Ridgeview High quarterback Tyler Huff seemed unfazed by the initial setback and set in motion to move the Panthers downfield with wideout Kiaran Turner snagging a post pass play for 17 yards to the Wildcat 44 yard line. From there, Huff misfired twice to Turner to force a punt.
A long pass to the Panther 41 was followed by a slant to the nine behind defender Dominic Stanfield to set up a nine yard touchdown run and a 14-0 Baker County lead.
Ridgeview would only get as deep as the Baker County 44 yard line in the first half as the Wildcats built their 35-0 lead that lead to a running clock in the second half.
In the second half, with Baker County coach Jamie Rogers using his bench for the final half, Ridgeview got spirited play with three touchdowns coming via two runs from senior Jacolbi Sampson and a nifty 50 yard sideline pass to Kiaran Turner.
A jet sweep to Turner with fullback Trent Coleman lead blocking got 35 yards in the third period to set up Sampson’s first score from the 10 yard line. A 30 yard punt return from Denali Lindo combined with a late hit flag, set up an 11 yard pass play from Huff to Brian Jackson to set up Sampson’s second score with 5:10 left in the game. Huff hit Jaidan Turner with a 15 yard pass on third and five at the Baker County 35 to keep that scoring drive alive. “We got Tyler Huff, Jaidan Turner, Brian Jackson, Denali all coming back on an offensive squad that loses just three seniors,” said Porch. “We will make some noise next year with these guys all coming back a little smarter and some key guys returning from injuries.”
On the Panthers final score, Ridgeview’s defense forced a punt from the Wildcat 23 that was downed at the 50 before Huff lit up Turner down the Wildcat sideline for an over-the-shoulder catch on the 20 that finished in the end zone.