Let’s be real.
The Georgia High School Association’s football state playoffs may be six weeks away, but the start of league play for Region 7-4A’s two sub-regions will bring a do-or-die atmosphere to those games tonight.
That’s certainly true for those who would aspire to be region champions. The importance of starting 1-0 rather than 0-1 is paramount with only five weeks to determine sub-region seeding. In the final week of the regular season, the two sub-region winners will face off for the championship — both are guaranteed a host’s spot in the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs — while the No. 2 seed from each sub-region will cross over to play the No. 3 seed from the other, with a state berth going to the winners.
In Sub-region 7B-4A matchups involving local teams tonight, Dalton hosts Ridgeland, Northwest Whitfield is at Heritage-Catoosa and Southeast Whitfield heads to LaFayette. In other games involving teams from Murray and Whitfield counties, Christian Heritage heads to Gordon Lee, Coahulla Creek hosts Gordon Central and North Murray travels to Adairsville. All kickoffs are at 7:30 p.m.
The Ridgeland Panthers (1-3) won last season’s sub-region and region titles and they did it while going undefeated in league play. Just one loss could be enough to prevent a team from attaining its goals.
“You can’t make a mistake if you think you’ll play for a region championship,” Ridgeland coach Mark Mariakis said.
Dalton started the season with two losses in which the Catamounts scored just 29 points total against Ringgold and Cass, but they have scored at least 30 while winning their past two games. The notable difference in the past two weeks’ victories against Gilmer and Cass, Sub-region 7A-4A teams, was the return of junior tailback Kelvis Rhodes. He rushed for 16 touchdowns and more than 1,500 yards in 2012 but missed the first two games of this season with a shoulder injury.
In just eight quarters this season, Rhodes has 295 yards on 37 carries, including seven touchdowns. He also has a 79-yard touchdown catch.
“Those first two games weren’t as important as the ones against region and sub-region teams,” Dalton fullback Jacob Bartoo said.
From here on, each game should be treated like a postseason game, Dalton coach Matt Land said.
“It’s a corny coach saying that the next game is the most important game, but in a way it’s true,” Land said. “This is our first sub-region game, and we only have five of those. Technically, at the end of the day, one misstep to the wrong team could cost you a spot in the playoffs because of tiebreakers.
“We’ll tell our kids, for all practical purposes, we’re in the playoffs. We’re in it right now. That’s the way we look at it, because if we lose this one then some of the games down the road might not matter.”
The Panthers’ success in 2013 went beyond sub-region and region accolades as they reached the Class 4A state title game during the best season in program history. But this season hasn’t gone nearly as well so far.
The Panthers opened with a 37-0 loss to Calhoun — the only common opponent thus far for Ridgeland and Dalton, which lost 17-2 to the Yellow Jackets — and have dropped each of the past two games, falling 36-14 to Cedartown and 41-28 to Pickens. Ridgeland’s only win was 42-14 over River Ridge.
“I’d rather be 4-0,” Mariakis said with a laugh. “Our kids are battling hard. We’ll probably have four freshmen starting. Dalton isn’t going to care, though. Nobody will care. I don’t think record has any indication of the quality of this ballgame.”
Mariakis is right — Dalton doesn’t care. In fact, Land called Ridgeland “one of the best teams” the Cats will play all season.
“I think sometimes when you’re on a winning streak, you might think you’re better than you are,” he said. “When you’re on a losing streak, you may think you’re worse than you are. We don’t play into that. We treat each week autonomous of past weeks. As far as we’re concerned, we’re playing the region champions and the state runners-up.”
League play starts for Region 7-4A football
Let’s be real.
- Christian Heritage School Lions
Top Lion on the court
Christian Heritage athletic director Preston Poag and headmaster Gerald Porter didn’t need to look far for new baseball and girls basketball coaches.
All they did was look at one another.
Bringing in the best
When high school football coaches look for events to take their teams to during the summer, they are looking for three things — top competition, organization and hospitality.
For The Daily Citizen’s Southeastern 7-on-7 Championship, the Dalton community and local business leaders take care of the latter. The tournament officials work tirelessly to provide the organization. And the two combined assure the top competition will show up.
In the lineup again
When Northwest Whitfield repeated as the Georgia High School Association Class 4A softball state champion last fall, that appeared to be the last time the majority of the Lady Bruins’ senior class would be teammates on the diamond.
Now, thanks to the Stump on Sports All-Star Softball Classic, five of those six seniors will reunite to play together one more time.
Junior golf: Hicks able to hang for final round
Despite giving up a few strokes from Monday’s opening round of 4-over-par 76, Dalton’s Landon Hicks was the only local competitor to advance to the third round of the Georgia Junior Championships.
All-Area Spring Female Team: Salinas hoping things keep getting better and better with age
Isabel Salinas’ freshman season for Southeast Whitfield High School’s track and field team wasn’t up to her standards, and she really isn’t sure why it ended up that way in 2013. It could have been her injuries. It could have been not being in proper shape.
One thing Salinas, nicknamed “Izzy” by friends and coaches, does know is that her sophomore year went a lot better.
All-Area Baseball Team and Player of the Year
As a freshman at Northwest Whitfield High School, Seth Pierce came out of nowhere and was as dominant a pitcher as the area had. Finishing his “rookie” season with the Bruins, the left-handed Pierce led the area with nine victories — he also had one save — and showed overpowering dominance with a 9-3 record and 89 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings. He finished his first season on the hill in Tunnel Hill with a 1.71 ERA while allowing 61 hits and 23 walks. Those numbers were also recorded against competition in a higher classification as the Bruins were playing Class 4A ball when the state had just five classifications. His performance earned him honors as 2012 The Daily Citizen All-Area Baseball Player of the Year.
Dindoffer mentally focused on basketball
All Sam Dindoffer wanted was to be a kid and play basketball. But sometimes your body doesn’t cooperate.
For the past four years, Sam and his family have faced one challenge after another since he first experienced a brain seizure at the age of 11. Since then, he has undergone four brain surgeries, a full-range of drug treatment options, many nights filled with wonder and fear, and trips back and forth to doctors’ offices from Dalton to Atlanta.
Can’t win ’em all: Colts fall to St. Pius X
VARNELL — Just as in other matches this season, there were handshakes and hugs awaiting the members of Coahulla Creek High School’s boys tennis team as they walked off the court Monday.
Unfortunately for the Colts, this time they were of the comforting rather than the congratulating variety.
Creek girls fall short at Oconee Co.
In 2013, Coahulla Creek’s girls high school tennis team saw their season end on the road at Oconee County in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament.
Friday in the second round of this year’s tournament, the Lady Warriors again were the team to end the Coahulla Creek season, taking a 3-0 win in Watkinsville. But coach Matt Facey hopes the second-round loss means the Lady Colts will advance at least to the state quarterfinals next season.
Prep Roundup: Unbeaten streak rolls on for Cats
Replicating the start of last year’s Class 4A state title match, Dalton High School’s boys soccer team needed just four minutes to score its first goal at Southeast Whitfield on Friday.
The Catamounts scored five more — and again defended their crown of dominance in the sport.
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