Football returns for RinggoldAfter tornadoes demolished their athletic facilities, Ringgold High School returned to the football field Friday, playing at Finley Stadium for their first home game of the season.
Ringgold seems to be right at home in Finley Stadium, complete with enthusiastic Don Patterson Field public-address announcer Kim Geselbracht and his love for the Tigers.
"It's really neat to be here, but you don't have the atmosphere like a high school stadium," Geselbracht said at halftime, "where the stands are packed and everybody is going crazy."
Just about everybody in Riggold's blue and white colors still had a good time Friday night four months after an EF4 tornado ripped through the athletic fields and devastated the community.
The Tigers beat Catoosa County rival Lakeview Fort-Oglethorpe 34-10 and had about enough fans to fill the blue chair-backed seats if everybody sat in one.
"I think everybody needs to call their in-laws, outlaws, neighbors, friends and enemies," Geselbracht blared at the start of the second half, "because we need a large crowd for every game."
Ringgold quarterback Slade Dale said he loves his temporary home field. He completed 3 of 7 passes for 21 yards but tossed a second-quarter touchdown and rushed in from a yard out for another.
"It was awesome playing at Finley, it was an awesome crowd and basically the whole city of Ringgold came out," Dale said. "It was an awesome way to start off the season at Finley Stadium, which is the best stadium around here in the South.
"It's awesome that we get to call it home."
Mark Fairbanks, the Tigers' leading rusher from last year, scored on his first touch of the season -- a 2-yard run after an inside handoff.
Fairbanks also scored on his second touch of the season when Dale drew two defenders before pitching to Fairbanks, who sprinted 12 yards to the corner pylon. He finished with 58 yards on six carries.
Dale took to the air for Ringgold's third score. He connected with Wright Hackett from 9 yards out just five seconds before halftime to give the Tigers a 21-0 lead.
LFO rallied a bit in the fourth quarter on a field goal by Kyle Trego and a 12-yard pass from Daniel Decamp to Randall Eaker.
"We played one quarter of football," said LFO coach Todd Windham, whose running back Bubba Cruz rushed for 71 yards. "We needed some good things to happen. We just started spiraling out of control."
The Tigers sealed the victory on a 44-yard scamper by Shaun Anderson with 35 seconds left in a memorable game.
The afternoon started for Ringgold with the team watching a five-minute video beginning with footage of the tornado and then highlights of the summer and preseason.
"It really was about football today," coach Robert Akins said. "I think our kids were really up and ready to play at the beginning of the day."
And they won at the end of the day.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...