Desperate for a play and with his team's playoff hopes on the line, Ringgold football coach Robert Akins put the ball in his star's hands and let him go to work. Junior quarterback Slade Dale responded with the biggest throw of his career.
Dale's 36-yard completion to a diving Christian Plott on third-and-20 kept the Tigers' late drive alive, one that culminated with a Dale 3-yard run with 36 seconds to play as Ringgold defeated Catoosa County rival Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, 14-9.
The outcome clinched a Region 5-AAA playoff berth for Ringgold (6-3, 4-2) and gave the Tigers their eighth consecutive win over LFO.
"Our goal was to get into the playoffs and the season starts over then," said Dale, who slashed his way through a hard-hitting LFO defense for 211 yards on 20 carries. "This is eight years in a row, and we proved once again that we're the best in the county."
Dale's game-saving completion came moments after the Warriors (6-3, 3-3) had forged ahead, 9-8, with 6:31 to play when Jacob Gilbert's 4-yard run capped a 70-yard drive. Trey Silmon's 31-yard completion to Daniel Parrish on third-and-10 was the key play.
Three Ringgold runs netted 22 yards to the LFO 43, but a holding penalty, an incompletion and a short run set up the big play. Plott, the fastest Ringgold receiver, took off down the right sideline and made a diving catch against tight man coverage from Randall Eaker.
"Plott is our best receiver and I wanted them to think about [Kile] Sholl, so when we put Kile in motion they went with him and it created a one-on-one situation, and he just made a great play," Akins said of the big play.
Out of timeouts, Ringgold kept the ball on the ground, with four plays moving it to the 9, where Dale scrambled for 6 yards before scoring around left end for the game-winner. LFO's ensuing drive was short-lived as Kanan Briner intercepted a Silmon pass on second down.
"I can't say enough about how tough this game was," Akins said. "Slade is a competitor and I thought a lot of our kids stepped up tonight. I'm just really proud of them. I give credit to LFO. They had a great scheme against us and they played really hard."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...