RINGGOLD, Ga. - Hail Marys aren't just for fourth downs or final plays. Central High School of Carroll County proved that Friday night at Ringgold, completing a second-down version of the play to key a 19-15 win over the Tigers.
Facing second-and-10 from the Ringgold 29 with under a minute to play and his team trailing 15-12, Central quarterback Wesley Long hoisted a pass to the left pylon just as he was buried by two Tigers. The ball eluded a leaping Ringgold defensive back by no more than an inch and came down in the arms of Central's Curtis Davenport at the 2.
Two plays later, Long sneaked over for the winning touchdown.
"We missed it by a fingertip, and that's the way it goes sometimes," Ringgold coach Robert Akins said after a game that included 21 combined penalties. "We made too many mistakes tonight, and I don't think we blocked very well. I thought they were very physical and athletic, and when you're not clicking on offense the team with more athletes usually wins. We've got to go back and regroup and look at our scheme."
Ringgold (2-1) took the lead late in the third quarter when quarterback Slade Dale capped a 56-yard drive with a 1-yard keeper, and the Tigers appeared close to taking control early in the final quarter when Christian Plott intercepted a Long pass. However, two 10-yard penalties stalled the possession.
The Lions (3-1) had two major penalties of their own in the ensuing drive, but a great roll on a punt that was tipped by Ringgold's Zack Morris rolled all the way to the Ringgold 5 with 6:43 to play. Dale's hard running got the Tigers out of trouble, but two consecutive negative runs resulted in a punt from the 21 that, due in large part to a strong wind, traveled only 23 yards.
Central began at the Ringgold 43, and after one first down Long connected with Davenport on the chuck-and-duck game-changer.
Dale, who had just 51 yards on 21 carries, was hounded all game by a blitzing Lions defense determined not to let him beat them with his legs.
"He's a great player and you can't let great players beat you," Central coach Rico Zachary said. "It wasn't a pretty game, but it was hard fought and we made just enough plays to win. Our defense, I thought, was the key."
Junior Kile Sholl led the Tigers with 54 yards on eight carries and added 106 yards and a touchdown on six receptions.
"I knew somebody else was going to have to step up because they were going to key on Slade, and I thought Kile Sholl really did that tonight, but we didn't open many holes up front," Akins said. "As our offensive line goes, we go, and we didn't do a good job tonight."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.