CARTERSVILLE, Ga. - Down and distance meant nothing to Cartersville High School in running its high-power offense right over the defense of Ringgold High in their battle for Region 5-AAA supremacy Friday night.
Twice in the first half, the Tigers had the undefeated and second-ranked Purple Hurricanes buried by big defensive plays. But like it was nothing, Cartersville first overcame a third-and-31 play and followed that up by shrugging off a second-and-28 on the way to three first-half touchdowns and an eventual 33-16 victory in Weinman Stadium.
Coach Frank Barden's team did it by demoting the forward pass to a secondary weapon and letting a perfectly solid running game do the job. Enjoying this change the most was junior Kalin Heath, who gained 100 of his 183 yards in the first half as Cartersville posted more than 300 rushing yards for the game.
"That's what they do," said Ringgold coach Robert Akins. "You contain one part of their attack, they hit you with something else.
"I thought our defense overall did a pretty remarkable job tonight. The key, I felt, was that we were in the red zone three times in the first half and got zero. We were able to convert in the second half, so maybe this will teach us that we have to play good teams like this for four quarters."
Ringgold will host a first-round game Friday for the first time.
Deferring to his backfield mates was quarterback Brooks Barden, who had 37 touchdowns and more than 2,100 passing yards coming into the game. He did not have a positive passing yard until the second quarter, winding up with 82 yards, albeit with three touchdowns.
Ringgold's wasted scoring chances began with the game's first possession. Senior quarterback Slade Dale threw an interception in the red zone after driving to the Cartersville 36. Another drive late in the first quarter died after a sack of Dale on the 19. The third was a missed field goal.
Much to Akins' relief, the Tigers were able to convert their second-half chances. A 28-yard end-around by Christian Plott set up a 1-yard Dale plunge in the third quarter, and the senior quarterback scrambled 30 yards for his 15th rushing touchdown of the season in the fourth.
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