Trinity Episcopal claims state titlePublished 12:00am Sunday, December 2, 2001
CLINTON – It has been said that the mark of a great player becomes evident whenever you take away one of his main weapons, but he still finds a way to put you down.
If that is the case, then certainly the Wayne Academy Jaguars know their championship dreams came crashing to a halt, at least in part, because of a player who has certainly lived up to all of his accolades.
Trinity Episcopal Saints quarterback Chad Ridley adjusted to what the Jaguars gave him, shaking off an extremely subpar first-half effort passing, to lead the Saints to the Mississippi Private School Association Academy A state championship.
&uot;I mean, my goodness, what can you say about Chad Ridley that hasn’t already been said? Is he a man or what?&uot; Saints coach David King asked. &uot;He’s done tremendous things for us all year, and when we needed it again, he came through.&uot;
The Saints, who finished the 2001 season at 12-2, grabbed the early lead on a nifty 14-yard scoring scamper early in the contest.
Ridley’s play out of the quarterback slot in the first half could hardly be characterized as outstanding.
Try 1 for 12 with only 12 yards on a sloppy field.
&uot;This was probably as poor a job of coaching for a team that has won a state championship as there ever was,&uot; King said.
But perhaps he was being just a tad modest, because during the lackluster period that bridged the first two quarters, both teams gave the football back and forth to each other on both punts and downs. And at the 10:21 mark of the second, King threw a little wrinkle in the works that changed the game’s complexion.
Enter sophomore flanker Ryan Rachal under center. His job was to pitch and hand off the ball to Ridley.
It worked like a charm.
From that point on, the Saints controlled the line of scrimmage and the all-important battle for field position in conditions where footing was a crap-shoot.
For the afternoon, Ridley finished with 21 carries for 139 yards and two scores.
But even though many of Trinity’s drives didn’t end in scores, they constantly put the Jaguars (12-2) in treacherous field position.
&uot;I think that was the biggest factor in the ballgame,&uot; Wayne head coach Tom Boznor said. &uot;We were always in a hole there, and it’s tough to move the ball against a line like they have.&uot;
Although the Jaguars did manage to do just that in the second half, churning the ball down the field on an eight-play, 65-yard production that was capped by a 10-yard sweep from running back Cory Cochran to pull Wayne to within the final margin.
The Saints in turn spent the next 16 1/2 minutes, winning the war in the trenches. A late fumble deep in Jags’ territory cost Trinity a chance to pad the final score, but four straight plays for little to no gain was the microcosm of the Saints’ day.
The game was originally scheduled to be played on Thursday, but was postponed until Saturday, and all the coaches agreed that the extra days of preparation helped the Saints.
&uot;We worked on it all week, the extra couple of days made all the difference,&uot; King said. &uot;We were able to work on that Power-I for two more days. I really wasn’t sure about it on Wednesday, since we only put it in on Sunday.&uot;
The coach also admitted smiling that the team had never tried using Ridley primarily out of the backfield, but realized he had to make an adjustment.
&uot;It was a good move, although, I won’t take any credit for it, but I’m glad I put it in there,&uot; he joked, referring to the pivotal switch.
As for Ridley, while awaiting for the state championship medal he has coveted for so long, he admitted that in the grand scheme of things, the move was beneficial in the outcome for the Saints.
&uot;We knew looking at film that they were going to study our jets and spread the field, but they weren’t very good at stopping the I,&uot; Ridley said. &uot;We didn’t get discouraged at all. We knew we could run the ball on them, and the blocking today was just great.&uot;
A bigger superlative is required to describe this entire team.