One measly yard in an offensive game between Ringgold and LaFayette determined the victor.
It also separated the teams that entered Finley Stadium on Friday night knowing that the loser would be out of the Georgia Region 7-AAA playoff picture.
Ringgold is still in it. LaFayette is not.
The Tigers made a fourth-quarter goal-line stand in a 34-30 win over the Ramblers and will travel to Cedartown next Friday with a playoff spot on the line.
"We knew all week that it was do-or-die," said Ringgold quarterback Slade Dale, who ran 16 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 10:38 to go. "It's just awesome."
The Ramblers (5-4, 2-3) faced fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line with 3:32 to play. They came out in a shotgun formation after a timeout by each team. Quarterback McKenzie Kelehear couldn't find a receiver open, so he scrambled left and then to the goal line.
Ringgold dropped him 1 yard short.
"It's good to pull one out," Ringgold coach Robert Akins said. "We felt like we could move it on them, but we couldn't get a stop in the first half. I'm really proud of our defense for getting that last one."
The Tigers earned two first downs in the final minute before Dale kneeled in the victory formation.
"It was a back-and-fourth emotional fight in a game that meant a lot to both communities," said LaFayette cornerback Sam Clayton, who returned a fumble 68 yards to give the Ramblers a 30-24 lead in the third quarter. "I hate that we lost, but if we had to drop one, they deserve for everything that's happened."
He was referring to the April tornado that destroyed Ringgold's building and facilities.
Ringgold running back Shaun Anderson scored three touchdowns and gained 205 yards on 22 carries. Mark Fairbanks added 117 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries for the Tigers, who led 24-21 at halftime.
LaFayette running back Demarcus Simpson led the Ramblers with 98 yards and a touchdown on six carries and two receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown. Devarus Porter added 69 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries for the Ramblers, who had 331 offensive yards.
"We came in knowing that it would be our last meaningful game," Fairbanks said, "so we played like it was our last game."
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 ...