DALTON, Ga. -- Before the Dalton-Southeast Whitfield high school football game ended with Dalton winning 35-0 Friday night, the already intense crosstown rivalry had escalated.
Six hours earlier the Georgia High School Association denied Dalton's appeal to overturn a ruling demanding that Dalton forfeit four of its six wins this season for using a player who formerly attended Southeast.
Friday afternoon, according to the Dalton Public Schools' website, "The GHSA appeals panel has denied Dalton High School's request for relief from the forfeiture penalty imposed due to the participation of an ineligible player."
Senior linebacker Corey Smith, who played his first three seasons at the county school, led Dalton in tackles this season before being held out due to the GHSA ruling that he didn't properly move from Southeas's district to the city school's district.
Dalton principal Debbie Freeman said earlier in the week that she believed Southeast Whitfield's administration intentionally waited until late in the season before reporting that Smith was ineligible so it would hurt Dalton the most.
Though he did not play, Smith was named Dalton's only captain for the game.
Though the first quarter of the game went scoreless, it started turning in Dalton's favor with two touchdowns in the last few minutes of the second quarter.
Dalton wide receiver Brandon Dale scored off a 51-yard pitch, and then Southeast dropped the kickoff and Dalton's Ryan Young recovered the ball. Three plays later, Catamounts tailback Tre Bonds ran in a 5-yard touchdown.
Southeast players' frustration led to more penalties, including five personal fouls, which coach David Crane said was the biggest reason his team lost.
"We got a couple foolish penalties and lost control of our emotions there a couple of times," he said.
Late in the third quarter, he called a timeout to tell his athletes to rein in their emotions.
"When you play a team with the caliber of athletes Dalton has, you have to play a good, clean game," Crane said. "You can't hurt yourself with penalties."
Bonds scored on a 9-yard run and Cole Calfee threw two touchdown passes, one to Will Erwin and the other to Brandon Dale.
With Ridgeland's win over Heritage, Dalton still can make the playoffs despite its 3-6 adjusted overall record. The Catamounts must win next week and at least three postseason games, or the school's storied streak of 51 consecutive winning seasons will come to an end.
Dalton coach Matt Land refused to talk after the game.
Andrew Pantazi is an intern at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who says that when he was 7 he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, he says he wasn't any good at hockey, so he became a journalist instead. He writes about the lives we hide, like the man who suffered a stroke but smiled, or the football walk-on who endured 5 ...