published Saturday, November 5th, 2011

Allatoona wins title in rout of Panthers

By Carlton D. White/Marietta Daily Journal

ACWORTH, Ga. -- It didn't take long for Allatoona to crown itself a champion.

The fourth-year program got a big boost from its ground game and stellar play from its defense in claiming its first Region 7-AAA championship with a 28-7 victory over Ridgeland on Friday.

Miles Jones rushed 27 times for 200 yards and two touchdowns for the Buccaneers (10-0), who completed the first undefeated regular season in school history and enter the state playoffs as a No. 1 seed.

Ridgeland (6-4), which was playing for its fourth straight region title and earned the No. 2 seed from the region, failed to convert a fake punt near midfield on its second possession after an open-field tackle from Mike Miller.

Allatoona converted the turnover into a seven-play, 48-yard scoring drive, capped by a 16-yard touchdown reception from Jeremy Uzee to Clarence Soleberry to take a 7-0 lead with seconds remaining in the first period.

Evan Courtney missed a 22-yard field goal on the Panthers' next possession, and an 18-yard punt on Ridgeland's fourth drive gave Allatoona first-and-10 at the Panthers' 36. One play later, Jones burst untouched through the middle of the Panthers' defense for a 34-yard touchdown.

Ridgeland managed only two first downs in the first half but finally got into a rhythm on its second drive in the third period.

A 22-yard run on third-and-7 from Trevor Long gave the Panthers a first down and a 15-yard penalty from Allatoona gave Ridgeland first-and-10 from the Buccaneers' 15. Two plays later, Darrell Bridges rushed in for a touchdown from 11 yards out to trim the deficit to 14-7 with 1:59 remaining in the frame.

Bridges rushed 19 times for 104 yards and a touchdown to lead Ridgeland, which will host the No. 3 seed from Region 8-AAA in the playoffs.

"There were two good football teams out there, but Allatoona wasn't 9-0 for nothing," Panthers coach Mark Mariakis said. "They're not region champs for nothing. They don't give those trophies away very easily. That was a very good football team. They present a lot of problems for a lot of teams. They get after you on defense and they're relentless on offense."

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