RINGGOLD, Ga. - The Ringgold Tigers have added a road trip to the magical journey that has been the 2013 football season.
The Tigers, avenging an early-season loss, worked around a leg injury to quarterback Slade Dale in whipping Central-Carrollton 35-10 in their Georgia Class AAA quarterfinal Friday night. The win earns Ringgold a trip to Washington County next Friday in the semifinals.
"Football in December. It's been 10 years since I've enjoyed that," admitted Tigers coach Robert Akins, who guided Boyd-Buchanan to a few title games at his previous stop. "I think tonight may have been the best we've played all year. To be part of the final four in Georgia is really special."
In avenging a 19-15 loss to the Lions back in September, the Tigers made a huge goal-line stand early and took advantage of turnovers in the second half to improve to 11-2 for the season. It was a team victory, made even more so with Dale hobbled.
"There was an article in the paper this week about D.L. Goins, Kile Sholl and Christian Plott, and I thought all three of those guys really rallied when Slade got banged up," Akins said. "The offensive line may have blocked as well as it has all year as well."
For the second straight week, Ringgold wanted the football first and used that initial possession to get an early leg up.
The eight-play drive was greatly aided by a personal-foul call on the Lions, and the big play was a 27-yard pass to Sholl that preceded a 10-yard scoring scramble by Dale. However, the athletic quarterback injured his leg while being flipped at the goal line, and he spent the rest of the contest riding an exercise bike when not on the field.
The Tigers defense made the game's first big play, holding Central out of the end zone and an inch shy of a first down at the end of a 12-play drive. But a few plays later, one of two first-half Dale fumbles led to Central's scoring play. Recovering on the Tigers' 30, the visitors used seven running plays to get into the end zone.
The Tigers took the halftime lead when Dale caught the Lions by surprise when a 53-yard bomb to Plott that the senior caught in full stride.
The Tigers defense then had another turn to shine.
Zach Morris, playing with a heavily taped elbow, walloped Wesley Long with a sack as Central was gearing up for a Hail Mary to end the first half. Then the defense held Central to a field goal when Jacob Chisenall and Christian Etheridge stopped Demarious Owenby on third down from the 6.
Garrett Yates' 31-yard kickoff return sparked the answer, Dale capping a retaliatory drive with a 2-yard run that put Ringgold up 21-10, and when Central turned it over on downs on the subsequent drive, it was all over but the stat-keeping.
Sholl (3-yard run) and Goins (34-yard burst) scored two late touchdowns as the Tigers amassed 351 yards of offense -- Goins leading with 126 yards on 15 carries. Defensively, Morris had what Akins confirmed was his best game, finishing with 12 tackles, four assists and two sacks. Dakota Bear had 10.5 tackles and seven assists.
"They showed us a couple of different looks on defense, but they were the same team we saw in September," Akins said. "We've gotten a whole lot better."
Contact David Jenkins at firstname.lastname@example.org