Photos by Hays Collins
Story By Robert Wilson

Ridgeland played its first game without quarterback Zy McDonald – the 2020 Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Player of the Year – in four seasons Friday night in its season opener against Northwest Rankin.

The Titans showed they have plenty of offensive firepower even without McDonald, who is now playing college football at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Teddy Dyess’s first game as Ridgeland’s head coach was a success as McDonald’s replacement – Dyess’ son Thomas – passed for 216 yards and three touchdowns and junior running back and Forest High transfer Kimani Payne ran for 146 yards and two scores in a 42-26 victory at Northwest Rankin.

Dyess, who replaced Sam Williams, improved to 213-45 in his 21st season as a head coach. His winning percentage of 82.5 is second only to former Jackson Prep coach Ricky Black, a member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and 2019 National Coach of the Year, who has an 83.3 winning percentage, among Mississippi football coaches who have won at least 200 games. Dyess has won six state titles, two as a player at Bassfield, one as an assistant coach at Madison Central, two as a head coach at Lumberton and one as a head coach at Magee last season when he went 12-0.

Ridgeland – which reached the Class 5A semifinals a year ago, mainly from its explosive offense – looked the part again Friday night. The Titans scored 21 points in each half. Dyess, a senior, connected with wide receiver Ayden Williams – the only junior on the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Elite Eleven Preseason Team – for TDs of 55 and 14 yards. Williams caught four passes for 100 yards. Wiliams caught 58 passes for 765 yards and six TDs last season. Dyess also completed a 63-yard TD pass to junior Ja’Braxton Boone. Ridgeland’s other score was a 45-yard interception return by junior linebacker Travis Posey. Dyess also kicked six extra points.

“It was good performance by our team tonight,” said Dyess, who returns 13 starters from last season. “We had a balanced offensive attack. We weren’t one dimensional. Thomas was steady and calm and managed the game well. Our kicking game was good.” Ridgeland’s win spoiled the coaching debut of Northwest Rankin’s Devin Cooper, who replaced Toby Collums and came from Scott Central where he led the Rebels to a 35-6 record (85.3 winning percentage) in the last three seasons, including a 15-1 mark and MHSAA Class 2A state title in 2018, his first year at Scott Central. Prior to coming to Scott Central, Cooper was an assistant at Clinton High for six seasons and was the defensive coordinator on Clinton’s Class 6A state title team in 2016, which featured All-American Cam Akers, now with the Los Angeles Rams.

Northwest Rankin sophomore quarterback Wes White passed for 233 yards and three TD passes, one each to senior Caleb McCoy (73 yards) and senior John Smith (18 yards) and sophomore Kaleb Boggans (13 yards) in his high school debut. Junior Javien Crump caught nine passes for 109 yards. Junior kicker Christian Baglione – a member of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard All Metro Jackson team last season – kicked field goals of 38 and 36 yards. Senior running back Cam Marion – a member of the Elite Eleven – gained 133 yards. He produced 1,486 yards and 19 TDs and helped the Cougars to a 9-4 record and their first second-round playoff win in school history last season.

“The effort was there for us to win, but we have to execute in the big moments,” Cooper said. “We did many things really well and had some opportunities to put ourselves in a great position but didn’t make enough plays. We’ll continue to grow and work hard to get on the other side of these games. The more we play, the better we will get.”