ORANGE PARK – Ridgeview High quarterback Tyler Huff threw for two touchdowns, including the game-winner to new wideout Glenn Miller with 1:38 remaining, and ran for a third score as host Ridgeview stunned District 5-5A champion Baker County 24-21 on Oct. 27.
Down 21-17 and facing a fourth down and five yards to go at the Wildcats’ 11 yard line, Ridgeview head coach Cameron Porch never hesitated in deciding to go not only for the first down, but for the touchdown. Huff lofted a spiral into the far corner of the end zone intended for Miller, who was running a fade route. Though the pass was high, Miller stretched and reeled it in, scraping the turf with his both feet before falling out of the end zone.
“It was a risky play, but we trusted Huff to put the ball in the right spot and trusted Glenn to go get it, and he did,” explained Ridgeview coach Cameron Porch.
Huff, a senior playing his final home game, excelled. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 182 yards. He also scrambled for several critical first downs, finishing with 51 rushing yards on 11 carries. He pushed his way into the end zone from a yard out for the game’s first score early in the second quarter. On the game-winning drive, he converted a third and 10 with a 12 yard completion to fellow senior Jaiden Turner.
That score stood until the halftime, thanks to a defense that had forced two turnovers. Miller intercepted Baker County quarterback Alex Bowen’s first pass of the game to give the Panthers’ the early momentum. Dominic Stanfield’s fumble recovery at the Ridgeview 20 yard line and 36 yard return removed a Wildcats’ scoring threat and led to Huff’s touchdown run.
Baker County came out in the second half determined to ride on the back of running back Marius Graham. The sophomore carried the ball on 14 of the Wildcats’ first 17 plays in the second half, running for 104 yards in the third quarter. Those two drives ended in touchdowns, one by Graham and one by fullback Kelton Knabb. Graham finished with 247 yards rushing on 34 carries.
But every time Baker County appeared on the verge of taking control, the Panthers responded. When Knabb tied the game at 7-7 with the first of his two short touchdown runs, Huff answered with a perfect 26 yard throw to a well-covered Isaac Chaffin to retake the lead for Ridgeview.
“I’ve never seen, been on or coached a team that had so much fight in them,” said Porch, soaked from a celebratory Gatorade shower. “When it looked bad, they found a way.”
Nearly every Panther contributed. Four different defenders had tackles for loss, including Miller. Six different receivers caught passes, led by Turner, who returned from injury to make five catches for 50 yards. Six different players carried the ball. The secondary limited Bowen to seven completions in 21 attempts. Punter Tyler Duggan drilled a field position-flipping 78 yard punt. Matt Koziolek booted a 39 yard field goal that added the decisive points with room to spare. But Porch was most pleased with the blocking of his offensive line.
“The offensive line stepped up and dominated against the best defensive line they have played all year,” said Porch.
Led by senior Caleb Plyler’s 59 yards on 11 rushes, the Panthers ran for 142 yards on 34 carries.
Playing only his second game on offense, Miller had two catches for 43 yards, including the game-winner. On defense he had a tackle for loss in addition to his interception. As a punt returner, the junior alertly fielded a bouncing kick to save the Panthers 10 yards in field position.
Taking over after Miller’s touchdown, the Wildcats drove to the Ridgeview 38 yard line before safety David Osborn stepped in front of intended receiver Avant Lee and picked off Bowen’s final pass, stepping out of bounds to be mobbed by a host of jubilant teammates.
The emotional win capped a regular season of momentum swings. Ridgeview opened with three wins, suffered through a five-game losing streak, and finished by beating ranked opponents in consecutive weeks.
With their regular season complete, the Panthers must wait on the results of games in Week 11 to learn their playoff fate.
“We need some help, but we did what we needed to do tonight,” said Porch. “If it ends here, what a hell of a way to go out.”
Baker County, which held a 408-324 edge in total offense, took a 21-17 lead with 6:03 remaining on Knab’s second short touchdown run. The Wildcats fall to 6-3 overall, 4-1 in District 5-5A.