If Dalton High’s football team didn’t know how good Vonn Bell was before Friday night, it does now.
Ridgeland’s Bell piled up 273 yards of offense and scored four touchdowns, backfield mate Darrell Bridges rushed for 100-plus yards and three scores and the powerful Panthers crushed the Catamounts, 48-21, at Bowers and Painter Field in the Sub-region 7B-4A opener for both teams.
The fourth quarter was played with a running clock under the GHSA’s mercy rule.
“This was a great start for us in the sub-region,” said Bell, who also plays defensive back and is one of the state’s top college prospects. “This puts us in the driver’s seat.”
With a University of Alabama coach in the stands watching, Bell caught touchdown passes of 88, 62, and 32 yards — all in the first half — and then broke off a 79-yard scoring jaunt in the third quarter that pushed Ridge-land’s lead to 48-7. Bell finished with 182 receiving yards on three catches and had 91 yards rushing on just two carries.
“With this backfield and an elite offensive line, we can always make big plays” he said. “We’re the big dogs. We’re ruling North Georgia and we showed tonight what Ridgeland football was all about.”
Ridgeland (4-1, 1-0) scored on its first seven possessions and left Dalton (2-3, 0-1) in disbelief.
“We knew they were explosive and knew what we had to do to win this game, but we didn’t execute,” Dalton coach Matt Land said. “That’s on me. We’ll go back to the drawing board and get ready for next week.”
The Panthers’ game plan was simple.
The offensive line needed to block well. Check.
Bell and Bridges had to be electric and shock the Cats. Check.
And Ridgeland’s defense needed to play as stout as it did last week in beating Pickens, 35-7. Check.
“We wanted to make them use weapons other than No. 7 (Bell),” Land said. “It turned out that all they needed was No. 7.”
Bridges rushed for 131 yards on 15 carries with touchdown runs of 8, 50 and 3 yards. His first score was set up when Ridgeland’s Jeremy Masley recovered Dalton’s fumble on the opening kickoff. The Panthers, gunning for their fourth region title in five years, needed just four plays to score.
“We gave Dalton a wake-up call,” Bridges said. “We punched them in the mouth and we kept it up the whole game. This game should shock everybody in the region.”
Ridgeland gets no argument from Dalton, which has lost back-to-back games by a combined score of 73-28.
“We wanted to overwhelm them,” Panthers coach Mark Mariakis said. “To get to the region championship I think you had to win this game. Our kids played physical, we got a break on the opening kickoff and we just kept rolling after that.”
Ridgeland finished with 484 yards of total offense. Quarterback Trevor Long and Bridges combined to complete all four Ridgeland pass attempts for 124 yards and the punishing ground game added 298.
After a 13-point first quarter, the Panthers embarrassed the Cats with four more touchdowns — two each by the B&B boys, Bell and Bridges — in the second quarter and went into halftime with a stunning, 41-7, lead.
Quarterback Cole Calfee and Brandon Dale hooked up for two of Dalton’s touchdowns on passes of 7 and 64 yards. The other touchdown was a 12-yard run by Marvin Hill with 1:26 remaining in the game. Kiko Rodriguez converted all three PATs for the Cats.
Dalton running back Kelvis Rhodes, who came into the game averaging 168 yards on the ground, gained just 20 on seven carries against the Panthers — all in the first half. Rhodes did not play after halftime.
Ridgeland 48, Dalton 21
Score by Quarters
Dalton 0 7 0 14 – 21
Ridgelan 13 28 7 0 – 48
How They Scored
RID –Darrell Bridges 8 run (Evan Courtney kick), 10:08
RID – Vonn Bell 88 pass from Trevor Long (kick failed), 5:29
RID – Bell 62 pass from Bridges (Courtney kick), 11:49
RID – Bell 32 pass from Long (Courtney kick), 8:47
RID – Bridges 50 run (Courtney kick), 4:29
RID – Bridges 3 run (Courtney kick), 1:02
DAL – Brandon Dale 7 pass from Cole Calfee (Kiko Rodriguez kick), 0:00
RID – Bell 79 run (Courtney kick), 11:05
DAL – Dale 64 pass from Calfee (Rodriguez kick), 9:25
DAL — Marvin Hill 12 run (Rodriguez kick), 1:26