The Daily Citizen
Similar to the season’s start, Dalton High School football fans were wondering about running back Kelvis Rhodes’ status.
And like before, other running backs combined to fill the void for the Catamounts.
Seven different players carried the football for Dalton in Friday’s 13-10 loss to Alexander in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
One was Rhodes, but he was used sparingly due to mononucleosis.
In Friday’s other game involving a local team, Northwest Whitfield (9-2) saw its season conclude in another Class 4A postseason results, a 52-10 loss at Carrollton.
Rhodes entered the game with 852 yards rushing for Dalton (8-3) on 115 carries and 16 total touchdowns. On Friday, he only rushed two times for 3 yards. Dalton coach Matt Land said the junior was confirmed for mono on Thursday.
“At Dalton, the safety of the players is most important,” Land said.
Rhodes missed the season’s first two games — losses to Ringgold and Calhoun — with an unspecified shoulder injury but played in all other games this year. He injured his left ankle in Dalton’s Region 7 championship win against Gilmer but Land said the ankle was fine for Rhodes to play on.
So others once again tried filling the void. Quarterback Payton Veraldi carried eight times for 42 yards, backup running back Tyler Noland carried nine times for 34 yards. Zek Cobb carried four times for 8 yards and had a touchdown run called back for holding. Eder Mora had a 5-yard carry and Logan Pender carried once for 3 yards.
The team’s leading rusher was senior fullback Jacob Bartoo, who carried five times for 44 yards. He had the team’s two longest runs of the game, sprinting for 19 yards on Dalton’s opening possession of the second half and running for 19 more on the following possession. Both times the Catamounts’ offense reached their opponents’ side of the field but stalled with the score tied 7-7.
Only Bartoo, a senior, played his last high school game Friday.
“There isn’t a kid on this team that works harder than Jacob,” Land said.
• One of the signatures of the Northwest offense this year had been the big play. Against Carrollton, the Bruins ran into a defense with more than enough speed to limit the big play.
Northwest quarterback Caleb Shiflett either had no time to throw or no one to throw it to for most of the night. With the running attack bottled up in the first half, Carrollton brought a pass rush with just three lineman, dropping eight back into coverage. So Shiflett was either throwing into coverage or throwing and taking a lick.
“Our secondary play is a strength for us, and it helps if you can get pressure with just three guys rushing the passer,” Carrollton coach Rayvan Teague said.
The longest play of the night for the Bruins came on a 14-yard run by Jacob Webb on Northwest’s lone offensive drive which resulted in points — a 30-yard field goal from Miguel Villa.
Of course, by that point, the Trojans had already scored 52 points.
But Northwest coach Josh Robinson was especially proud of that drive which covered 67 yards and 14 plays while converting a fourth-down to keep the drive alive.
“I told our guys to go out and finish the game the right way,” Robinson said of his halftime talk after falling behind 42-7 at the end of the first half. “We wanted our younger guys to see the fight and the determination that this senior class has played with the entire season.”
Carrollton didn’t have much in the way of big plays on offense either, but the Trojans were able to eat up huge chunks of yardage throughout the game. Carrollton had just one negative-yardage play in the game, and that came on a botched snap.
“We really challenged the offensive line coming into this game because Northwest has a very good defensive front,” Teague said. “They really responded.”