WOODSTOCK -- With the Region 7AAAAAA championship already in hand, River Ridge completed an undefeated regular season Saturday afternoon by beating Cambridge 29-21.
The Knights' emphatic turnaround from a 3-7 finish in 2019 saw them complete their schedule with a winning record for just the second time in the program's 12-year history.
River Ridge (9-0, 6-0), which clinched the region title Friday night with Johns Creek's loss to Creekview, got off to a strong start Saturday before having to fend off a late surge from Cambridge (5-5, 4-3).
River Ridge running back Amehre Morrison scored on opening possession from 2 yards out to put River Ridge up early 7-0, then later added another touchdown from 4 yards out, propelling the Knights to a 20-0 lead at halftime.
Morrison, who finished the night with 69 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, kept his answer simple and frank when asked to evaluate his performance on the day.
"I do this," he said.
Quarterback Carson Lathem played brilliantly, completing 10 of 13 passes for 174 yards and no turnovers. He threw a 6-yard touchdown passs to Riley Caines.
Cambridge made a furious rally in the fourth quarter scoring two touchdowns, both by quarterback Zach Harris, one rushing and one passing. However, the Bears' last chance for an onside kick recovery was snuffed out by River Ridge.
After the game, River Ridge was presented with the region championship trophy, and coach Mike Collins spoke emotionally about what the Knights' historic season meant to him.
"These kids were charged with a charge by me, the community, of getting back to football in June," Collins said, referring to the team's development around coronavirus restrictions that altered the offseason. "It started with eight kids at a workout, then 10 at a workout, and then couldn't touch a football, helmet or go in a locker room. So to do that with success, thank goodness, gave this school and community something to latch on to in a very difficult time. It's unbelievable."
Collins also went to elaborate on the play of the duo of Morrison and Lathem.
"Morrison is a complete football player. You see the stats and yards, but how you play when your number isn't called is an example of a leader. He is that," Collins said. "Lathem has toughness, confidence and leadership abilities. His work ethic is incredible and takes a lot of pride in his craft -- never satisfied."
The region title is the second in 16 seasons as a head coach for Collins, a Canton native who previously coached at Wheeler, Chamblee and Pebblebrook, the last of which he led to a region title in 2006.
River Ridge will host Kennesaw Mountain in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs next Friday night -- the Knights' first trip to the postseason since a first-round loss to Grady in 2011.
Kennesaw Mountain is in the state playoffs for the first time in their history, but Collins is not taking his next opponent lightly.
"Any team playing next week is a good team, and we have to be ready for them," he said. "I don't know much about them at the moment, but we will prepare hard and be ready to go next week."