RINGGOLD, Ga. - Add one more first to the Ringgold Tigers' record-setting football season.
This year's version of the Tigers became the first-ever 10-win squad with a surprisingly easy 37-12 victory over visiting Cedar Grove in the second round of Georgia's Class AAA playoffs Friday night.
The Tigers (10-2) earned a rematch with one of their regular-season conquerors, Central of Carrollton. But a coin toss at the GHSA headquarters this morning will determine home field.
Friday's victim, DeKalb County school Cedar Grove (7-5), averaged well over 30 points per game during the regular season. But on this night, the Tigers had the controls from the onset, scoring the game's first 30 points.
"We talked to our defense during the week. We didn't play very good defense last week and knew we had to redeem ourselves on defense," Ringgold coach Robert Akins said. "If we're going to make a deep run in the playoffs, we have to play great defense.
"It started with Slade Dale covering their big-play receiver, Brandon Norwood. He did a job on him like he's done so many others in his career, even though he got outjumped for that one late in the game," Akins added.
The Tigers wanted the football on the opening kickoff and knew what to do with in when they got it. Dale, also the quarterback, drove his offense 64 yards in nine patient plays, keeping it on the ground. In fact, the Tigers had only four competions, one a 25-yard TD to tight end Dallas McGee early in the second quarter.
The Tigers were able to take control in large part because of a total dominance of the Cedar Grove punting game. First, Christian Plott blocked one cleanly off Joe Comer's foot. The nexr time, a bad snap rolled into the end zone for a safety. In the third quarter, the Saints signaled an early step into a panic mode by trying two straight fakes in their own territory without converting.
"We knew their punter hit the ball only 20 yards or so, so we decided to bring it," Akins said. "We were worried that if we tried to set up a return, we'd be hit."
Dale finished the contest with 167 yards and a pair of rushing scores, giving him 21 for the season. Goins was right at 100 yards on the ground as the Tigers posted 344 team yards. Both Goins and Kile Sholl added rushing scores in the win.
Defensively, Dakota Baer had 10.5 tackles and five assists. But junior Zach Morris, playing his first game since making his commitment to Duke official, left the game early with what Akins described as an elbow strain after one sack and two tackles for losses. The Tigers had seven total hits for losses in the game.
Contact David Jenkins at firstname.lastname@example.org