SYLACAUGA -- No, Sylacauga fans. Head coach Matt Griffth didn’t find a way to sneak Alex Thomason back into that cardinal-colored No. 5 jersey for one more Friday night under the lights at Legion Stadium.
Aggies junior running back Jordan Ridgeway, who currently dons that particular jersey, rushed for 213 yards and five touchdowns (54, 1, 73, 5 and 7 yards) on 17 carrries and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Daylon Keith in a 48-10 victory over Class 5A, Region 5 foe Springville.
On his longest TD run of the night, Ridgeway appeared to be headed towards the sideline but cut it back inside and weaved through Tiger traffic for the score.
“We’ve been waiting for him to emerge as that running back,” Griffith said. “He’s got the potential to be a good one and he started to play a little bit better last week (against Chilton County).
“Jordan’s one of those guys that’s got to keep getting carries and keep himself in playing shape so he can tote it 18, 19 times.
“I thought we played better in spots. We’ve just got to eliminate really dumb mistakes -- the jumping offsides and doing things that a really good, polished team doesn’t do.”
Four of Ridgeway’s carries went for 10 or more yards, including a 17-yard run on a fourth-and-7 fake punt from the Aggies’ 31-yard line.
Freshman safety Malik Pope picked off a pair of passes from Springville quarterback Austin Hutcheson and averaged 41.5 yards per return. Both returns set the Aggies up inside the red zone, and his first pick would have been a 47-yard score if not for a block-in-the-back penalty.
“Malik keeps maturing as a player, and we’re really pleased with him,” Griffith said. “Here’s the thing. We don’t know how much longer he’ll be on that defensive side of the football. He’s a phenomenal running back. We’ve got a good running back, and … it’s very hard to play a ninth-grader at running back. It’s an easier transition to defense right now, but he just keeps getting better.”
Malik Wyckoff scored the Aggies’ final touchdown on a 44-yard run with 1:41 remaining in the third quarter.
Three to know
- Sylacauga generated 453 yards of offense, and the first-string offense exited after the first drive of the second half. Keith finished his night 5 of 7 passing for 107 yards and a touchdown. He gained 32 yards on six carries.
- Tigers senior running back Bradlee Cole led Springville in rushing with 98 yards on 21 carries and scored the squad’s only touchdown on a 4-yard pass from Hutcheson. Sophomore kicker Hunter Ambrose booted a 21-yard field goal and the extra point as all of Springville’s points came in the first half.
- One category in which the Aggies might prefer not to outgain their opponents is penalty yards. Sylacauga committed eight penalties for 65 yards and sent one kickoff out of bounds, while the Tigers drew just three flags for 25 yards -- though both teams had a penalty or two declined throughout the contest.
- Griffith on the block-in-the-back that negated a defensive touchdown: “It’s a young kid though, and here’s the thing. They hear us all the time. We constantly say it. Never block behind the play. We show them film all the time of people doing it, and it’s just one of those things that when he gets that kind of penalty, he’ll see me Monday and we’ll reinforce that we don’t do that.”
- Griffith on getting the first region win: “We’re 3-0, but more important, we’re 1-0 in the region, and that’s what it’s all about is winning region games to try to win a region title, try to host playoff games and make a run in the playoffs. This was the first step.”
- Sylacauga (3-0, 1-0) will travel to Bill Morris Stadium to face Moody (1-1, 1-0) next Friday, while Springville (1-2, 0-1) will host Central Clay County (1-1, 1-0) the same night.