Game: River Ridge (8-0, 5-0) at Johns Creek (4-3, 4-1), Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: First meeting
All-time series: First meeting
Prediction: River Ridge 24, Johns Creek 14
A goal every program sets for itself will be on the line this week for River Ridge.
The Knights (8-0, 5-0) will travel to Johns Creek (4-3, 4-1) on Friday and will look to win the first region championship in program history. A win would guarantee a Region 7AAAAAA title for River Ridge and a No. 1 seed in the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
“If you look back to the preseason I think everybody predicted Johns Creek to be here and probably nobody predicted us to be here,” River Ridge coach Mike Collins said. “I’m just extremely excited for our kids to play in an important football game late in the season.”
River Ridge defeated Sequoyah 35-9 last Friday and continued to play with the confidence of a team on a historical run. The offense was balanced, accounting for 453 total yards (284 rushing and 169 passing). Quarterback Carson Lathem finished 13-for-17 for 169 yards while Jackson Head reemerged as one of the best receiving options in the county, finishing with six receptions for 87 yards.
River Ridge leads its region and Cherokee County in points scored (268) which comes to an average of 34 points per contest.
“Ball distribution is major for us,” Collins said. “There’s an onslaught of kids who are able to make plays and I still think we can be better.”
The Knights had two 100-yard rushers last week with Amehre Morrison and Andrew Bingham. Morrison has been the best offensive player in the county this season with more than 1,400 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns but Bingham — who is in the top-10 in both rushing and receiving yards in Cherokee County — has also been an integral piece for the Knights in both the running and passing game.
“He’s a Swiss army knife,” Collins said. “He plays the slot, wide receiver and running back. There are so many ways you can get him the ball and he’s comfortable doing all of them.”
River Ridge shutout Sequoyah in the second half and was led by defensive lineman Brian Bradley who finished with multiple sacks and tackles-for-loss. The defense is allowing only 16 points per game .
Johns Creek defeated Centennial 35-10 last and has won four of its last five games. The Gladiators have the pieces on defense to stifle even the most explosive offenses.
Defensive end Cole Nelson is a Virginia Tech commit while safety Terrian Williams holds more than 30 college offers including LSU, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina and Stanford. Williams is dynamic in the kick return game as well. Several other players on Johns Creek’s defense have drawn college attention including defensive lineman David Alexander and linebackers Tremonte Barnett and Micah Gay.
Whether the River Ridge defense can stop the running attack of Johns Creek may ultimately decide this game. Running back Dylan Parr has been the focal point of Johns Creek’s offense this season and he has plenty of talent in front of him to lead the way. Offensive lineman Tyler Gibson holds offers from Arkansas, Florida State and Georgia Tech among others.
With its undefeated record still intact, River Ridge will look to continue the best season in program history.
“I feel like we have a group of guys that are on one accord,” Collins said. “We’re thinking alike here in our camp and our message is never going to waiver, never going to change. That’s all we can control and hopefully, that will be enough to compete with Johns Creek.”