ORANGE PARK - Three scoring passes from quarterback Max Monroe and a 13-tackle defense effort by both linebackers; Miika Tuisano and Joe Reed, powered the Ridgeview High football team to a season-opener 28-7 win over Wolfson High Friday night at Ridgeview High School.
"I think we were a little sloppy to start with no preseason games and we concentrated on less scrimmages in practices to avoid injuries," said Ridgeview High second year coach Matt Knauss, who was 1-9 in his debut last year. "I think the rest helped the rust; I'd rather have rest than rust, and it showed with five turnovers and a high level of intensity."
Both teams opened with three downs and out situations before Knauss' vaunted run-pass option offense hit high gear on a seven play drive that finished with senior running back Rasheed Baker taking a swing pass 10 yards out to put the Panthers on the scoreboard first 7-0. Kicker Austin Leonard; perfect on all four PATs, kicked the initial kick.
In the drive, Monroe got an 11 yard out pattern to Josh Dorsainvil and a 15 yard slant to sophomore Bryce Hampton to set up Baker's scoring run.
On the next Wolfson series, Panther linebacker Brian Cole corraled Wolfson quarterback Josiah Jean for a 12 yard loss to the Wolfpack 25 with a second tackle for loss from Reed putting the Wolfpack at a third and 25 at their own 20.
"We had lots of hats to the ball," said Reed, a transfer from Clay High who missed much of 2019 with injuries. "We knew we wanted to attack behind the line of scrimmage."
Part of the Panthers' reinvigorated defense is defensive coach Jason Smith, who is known in north Florida as a guy who likes to combine speed and hard work.
"If you are on the field, you better be going 100 miles per hour," said Smith. "The whole defense; five turnovers, surprised me as a unit because they were flying the whole game. Our team goal was three turnovers; we got five."
For Monroe, the night was full of getting the ball around his backfield with Hampton getting a 25 yard scoring run and Monroe hitting wideout Ed Whipple with a perfect 41 yard pass that found the fleet-footed Whipple alone on the Wolfson sideline.
Monroe's final strike was a 16 yarder to Gamble late in the game.
"It feels good to be vertical for most of the game; the offensive line did a great job," said Monroe. "We had our little outs, the deep one to Eddie. We got three guys that if we can get the ball to can take it in from anywhere."
Hampton's 25 yard scoring run got loose behind a crushing block from Whipple downfield to put Ridgeview up 14-0 near the end of the first quarter.
As the second quarter started, linebacker Gavin McCormack emerged from a scrum near midfield with the ball to put Monroe back on the field.
Just one play and Whipple was flying downfield for a third Panther score.
Next Wolfson series and Baker outleaped a Wolfson pass for an interception that put Monroe and friends back on the field, but the drive stalled.
In an ironic play on the field, Whipple caught a perfect spiraled punt off Monroe's foot near the Panthers' 25 yard line.
"It looked like a pass," said Whipple.
With a strong lead, the Panther defense moved as a pack behind nosetackle Derek Mosley's front rushes that set up tackles for losses from nearly the rest of the defensive unit as Wolfson had no answer up front. Mosley finished with five tackles.
Just before the half, McCormack would blast through with a big hit that linebacker Rae Barger scooped up the jarred ball for the third turnover of the first half.
Wolfson would get a score from Jean in the fourth before Gamble took a swing pass for the Panthers' final final score and the final 28-7 score.
Reed, 13 tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble, grabbed an interception, but cramped on the return effort and Nick Martin picked up a fourth quarter fumble to seal the game.
Ridgeview has a bye week before facing off with county-rival Fleming Island in two weeks; September 25 at Fleming Island High School.