Photos by Jared Thomas
Story by Robert Wilson
Ridgeland is known for an explosion offense, but Friday night the Titans’ defense complimented the offense with outstanding play as well for the second straight week. The result was a 42-0 victory over Provine for Ridgeland’s second consecutive, MHSAA Class 5A, Region 2 victory over a Jackson Public School opponent. Ridgeland’s defense, led by junior outside linebacker James Woody, limited Provine to only three first downs and 66 total yards. Ridgeland defeated Jim Hill 54-0 and allowed only three first downs and 57 total yards two weeks ago. This has been a big change for the defense, which allowed 50 points in a loss to Pearl and 26 points in a win over Northwest Rankin. Said first-year Ridgeland coach Teddy Dyess: “We are a much-improved football team from Week 1 until now.” Indeed. Junior running back Ka’Mari Payne had 23 carries for 157 yards and four touchdowns and junior wide receiver Ayden Williams had nine catches for 142 yards and two TDs. Williams – the only junior on the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Preseason Elite Eleven Team – is ranked the No. 2 player in Mississippi and the No. 3 wide receiver in the country in the Class of 2023 by 247 Sports. He has caught 27 passes for 519 yards and seven TDs this season. Ridgeland improved to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in Region play. Provine dropped to 1-3 and 0-2. Provine played without senior defensive end Donterry Russell, one of the top players in Mississippi. The 6-4, 200-pound Russell, a Mississippi State commit, is rated No. 10 player in Mississippi and No. 23 defensive end in the country by 247 Sports. Russell bruised a knee in the first quarter in Provine’s season opener at Gautier. It was the first game Russell and Provine had played since the 2019 season since Jackson Public Schools made the decision to not play fall sports due to covid. Russell hasn’t played since his injury against Gautier. Russell had 46 tackles, 11.5 for loss, 7 sacks and 1 forced fumble as a sophomore. Russell’s brother, De’Monte Russell, is a sophomore defensive end at MSU. Not only was Provine playing with Russell but starting quarterback Shaviro Allen suffered a bruised knee in the first half last week against Callaway and didn’t play against Ridgeland. “Our special teams hurt us a lot,” Provine coach Tim Wilson said. “Offensively, we are not playing well. We can’t expect the defense to stop anybody with a short field and the momentum every time. We don’t have any excuses. We just got beat. We will move on and learn from this.” Ridgeland led 7-0 after the first quarter, 35-0 at halftime and 42-0 after three quarters. “Our defense was lights out on all three levels,” Dyess said. “James Woody was dominate on defense all night. He make our calls, and gets us lined up right. Creighton King was really a major force from his defensive end spot. Kaleb Barnett had two pass breakups at cornerback.’ Dyess, who replaced Sam Williams as Ridgeland’s coach this season, has a 215-46 record in his 21st season as a head coach. His winning percentage of 82.3 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, 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 he went 12-0 and won the MHSAA Class 3A state crown.