In an extreme contrast of offensive styles, RCHS’s run heavy approach outgunned Ranburne’s pass-happy methods to send the Tigers to a 42-27 victory over the Bulldogs in Ranburne Friday.
In terms of total yardage the final numbers for the two teams were almost the same, but they way in which they gained those yard could not have been more different.
“It was completely different styles, and in the end they wore us down up front and we couldn’t hang in there and stop them,” said Ranburne head coach Stephen Bailey. “We did everything we could do offensively to try to keep pace and just didn’t quite make enough plays.”
RCHS attempted just two passes in its 59 offensive plays, and all of the Tigers’ 388 yards came on the ground. Senior J.D. Till continued his ascension as the Tigers’ lead running back in his first year of varsity football after he ran for 214 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries Friday.
Ranburne kept the game close with a productive passing attack led by eighth-grader Shaun Swofford. In the first varsity start of his career Swofford went 17-for-30 for 320 yards, with three touchdowns and just one interception.
Swofford was forced into action with starter Jaxon “Slap” Langley sidelined with a concussion.
“He’s got some talent. He’s going to be really, really good,” Bailey said. “And he may be really, really good parts of this year. He’s one of those kids that works all summer long to play quarterback, and he’s been doing it for a while. I didn’t know he would do that well. I knew he had the tools to do it. I didn’t know if mentally he could handle being in a big game like that, but I was really, really proud of him.”
Now Bailey may be forced to make some tough decisions with Langley cleared to return for this week’s game against B.B. Comer. Until this year Langley’s primary position was wide receiver. To further complicate the decision making process, Ranburne’s leading receiver Tylor Cornwell went down with a knee injury Friday after hauling in seven catches for 137 yards and a touchdown.
With Swofford’s success as a quarterback, Bailey will have to decide if Langley will be better utilized as a pass catcher in Cornwell’s absence.
“Shaun came in and did what he was supposed to do as a backup, he stepped up and did an amazing job,” Bailey said. “So that to me just gives us options. Technically Slap is our most talented receiver, or was coming into the season. So it gives us some options down the road.”
On the other side RCHS’s relentless running attack carried the day. Outside of Till, Jack McKissick and Johnathan Wilson provided meaningful contributions. McKissick rushed for 71 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries, and Wilson had the longest run of the night for either team, a 52-yard touchdown in the first quarter that gave RCHS a 7-0 lead.
Till was the workhorse, however, and he scored on runs of 4,10 and 21 yards, the last two of which came in the fourth quarter as Ranburne was attempting to make its comeback push.
RCHS led 21-14 at halftime and 27-14 going into the fourth quarter. Till’s 10-yard run with 9 minutes left in the game put RCHS up 35-14 before Ranburne quickly responded with a touchdown of its own to cut the lead to 35-21. But Till’s 21-yard jaunt with 7:05 left to play kept Ranburne at arm’s length and helped the Tigers secure the win.
Tyler Craft caught three passes for 60 yards and two touchdowns for Ranburne. Landon Harmon finished as the Bulldogs’ leading rusher with 58 yards and a touchdown on two carries.
Ranburne will host B.B. Comer Friday in a pivotal area game that could prove vital to both teams’ playoff hopes. Meanwhile RCHS, which entered the game ranked No. 2 in the state in class 2A, will look to keep that ranking and its undefeated record intact against Horseshoe Bend in a homecoming game this week.