For RCHS the best-case scenario for this season always hung by the thread of perfect health. With three key starters not in the lineup Friday for a key matchup against Ranburne, the Tigers showed a glimpse of just how fragile that thread was.
It was the perfect setting for a Ranburne team that came into the game flying high from a huge come-from-behind, last-minute victory a week ago.
The Bulldogs never came down from that high as they used a big-play passing game and a smothering defense to stifle RCHS and come away with a 42-0 win that was as one-sided as the score indicates.
The writing was on the wall for RCHS from the very beginning as Ranburne pooched the opening kickoff into no man's land and recovered the loose ball at the RCHS 39-yard line. The Bulldogs needed just three plays to score the game's first points on a 26-yard pass from Shaun Swofford to Tyler Craft.
The band had barely sat down from playing the national anthem and the score was 7-0.
It never really got better for RCHS from there. The Tigers were without starting lineman Gauge Mitchell for the second straight week due to a leg injury, and they also played without running backs Christian Jefferson and Markel Lee. With the options limited offensively RCHS was unable to put any meaningful gains together.
The longest play from scrimmage for the starters was a 10-yard pass from Avion Willis to SanDavion Hardnett in the third quarter. Seventh grader Maurice Winston ended up as the team's leading rusher with five carries for 38 yards during mop-up time in the fourth quarter.
Ranburne limited starting running back Zack Caldwell to 28 yards on 18 carries.
Meanwhile Swofford found his biggest success on a handful of downfield throws that got three different Ranburne receivers into the end zone. Craft got that party started in the first quarter, while Mason Stewart added a 42-yard score in the second quarter and Jaxon Langley caught one for 50 yards and a touchdown early in the third.
Langley led the way among the receivers with five catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. Swofford finished 9-for-15 for 200 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Ranburne got its remaining points in a variety of ways. Austin Olds's 49-yard punt return for a touchdown gave the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Landon Harmon had a 10-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter to put Ranburne up 35-0. And Lyrik Raines had a 70-yard scoop and score on an RCHS fumble to round out the scoring late.
It was the first win for Ranburne against RCHS since 2014, and the first shutout victory in the series for the Bulldogs since 2007.
It also helps bring the playoff picture into somewhat clearer focus in 2A, Region 4. Lanett, LaFayette and BB Comer appear to be the front runners, while Ranburne's wins over RCHS this week and Vincent last week put the Bulldogs in an advantageous position for that fourth spot.
Ragland 22, Woodland 21 – Woodland suffered a heartbreaking loss to Ragland for the second straight year. The Bobcats took a 21-14 lead into the fourth quarter on the the strength of a pair of Parker Woodham touchdown runs.
But Ragland scored on a short touchdown run with just over six minutes left in the game to take the lead. Woodland appeared to come up with a defensive stop to get the ball back with a chance to win it in the final two minutes, but a defensive pass interference call against the Bobcats gave Ragland a first down and the Purple Devils were able to run out the clock.
Wadley 41, Victory Christian 0
Clay Central 42, Elmore County 14
Look for full coverage of all of these games in next week's print edition of the Randolph Leader.