The Pickens Dragons will face a real challenge this Friday night, as the team travels north towards the Tennessee state line to take on the Ridgeland Panthers in Rossville.
The 2-1 Dragons are coming off a 42-0 victory over the Heritage Generals and will be poised to show what they are capable of doing this season against a 1-2 Panthers’ squad that lost last Friday to Cedartown 36-14.
Despite the graduation of two of the best players from last year’s AAAA runner-up team in defensive back Vonn Bell and running back Darrell Bridges, Ridgeland still looks to be a very dangerous opponent for the Dragons and for the rest of the 7-AAAA teams that are set to face them this season.
Led by senior quarterback Hunter Kaufhold, the Panthers’ offense has been admittedly hit-or-miss this year, shown by their combined 14 points in their two losses (Calhoun and Cedartown) and their 42 points in the team’s four touchdown win over the River Ridge Knights.
Offense was not necessarily the key in the Panthers’ lone victory so far this season, as the team was outgained by the Knights 318 to 252 but made River Ridge pay for four turnovers in the contest, turning what could have been a close contest into a blowout. However, this is not to say that Ridgeland is not capable of turning big plays, as several Panthers’ players, including Kaufhold as well as senior running back Noah Cooper and wide receiver Trey Stubbs, have shown time and time again that they can make big plays when simply given the chance.
Although the Dragons’ defense will undoubtedly have to stand tall on Friday night (which they have done throughout Pickens’s three games this year), the key factor to this game will be Pickens winning the turnover margin in this one.
In the Dragons’ 25-13 loss to the Northwest Bruins two weeks ago, the offense was unable to maintain possessions consistently in the game, which resulted in six disappointing turnovers, effectively ruining several promising drives. With a twelve point loss in a game with six turnovers against a quality Bruins’ squad, it is apparent that Pickens is fully capable of hanging with most AAAA teams; it is just a matter of focusing on offense and avoiding careless mistakes.
Prediction: The Dragons hit the field hot and hyped for a real challenge and play efficiently early in this contest, matching Ridgeland stride for stride through the first half of play. However, the team’s inexperience in certain situations hurts the team in the second half, as some of the problems that plagued the team against Northwest Whitfield unfortunately rear their ugly heads again. Pickens makes an impressive run late in the fourth quarter to close the gap on the Panthers, but it is not enough to upend Ridgeland. Final Score Pickens Dragons 20, Ridgeland Panthers 28