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.
- Dalton High School Catamounts
Todd leaving DHS swim after 16 years
Throughout his 17 years with the Carpet Capital Aquatic Club and his 16 years with the Dalton High and Dalton Middle School swim programs, Charles Todd has received looks and offers from other areas.
But with his youngest child Chase still in school and his wife playing a major role in the Whitfield County Division of Family and Children Services, Todd wasn’t looking to make a move.
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.
Cushman’s gamble is paying off
Wil Cushman never had to worry about establishing his high school’s swimming and diving program. Dalton already had a full roster and championship history.
His first two years at Birmingham Southern University, though, have been all about making sure the beginning wasn’t the end.
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.
Carlile gets a chance to grind
As Dylan Carlile saw more and more of his peers receiving offers from college wrestling programs, he became nervous.
The Dalton High School grappler had nothing to worry about, because when the time came, he had his choice.
Dalton girls finish second in Class 4A
In the Class 4A girls state golf tournament last year, the Dalton High School team finished third at Nob North Golf Course. Monday, playing in the state championship at Waynesboro Country Club, the Lady Catamounts finished second by just two strokes.
“There is just one more place left to win,” Dalton coach Nancy Hallsworth said. “They have the time ahead of them to do it.”
Nelson keeps a tight line
Multiple high school athletes from the area sign scholarships each year for baseball, basketball, football, softball, volleyball and many other sports.
Bass fishing scholarships? There aren’t many of those.
- More Dalton High School Catamounts Headlines
- Todd leaving DHS swim after 16 years