Sports Columns

October 13, 2013

Chris Whitfield: Rivals Dalton and Northwest Whitfield bring out the best in a classic

You better believe this was a rivalry game. Don’t let anyone — anyone — convince you otherwise.

Because people don’t just pack into a stadium for “just another game.”

One play can’t make one side erupt in jubilation if this was “just another game.” Young men who see their hopes of a victory taken away with one kick and one horn blowing in the night don’t have tears streaming down their face after “just another game.”

Coaches don’t have their voice crack with emotion talking about their players after “just another game.”

You won’t see the joy that the Dalton fans threw out to their players on the field after “just another game.” You won’t see mamas holding their 260-pound babies in their arms the way some mamas did after “just another game.” More than 3,500 people don’t just fall silent at the end of “just another game.”

Dalton High School’s 31-28 win over Northwest Whitfield on Friday night in Tunnel Hill proved that even with Dalton holding a 28-5 advantage in the series against the Bruins, this is a rivalry in any possible way you could imagine.

And it is a rivalry to both teams.

“We were too pumped and bought into making this a little bigger than what it was, which was just another game,” Dalton coach Matt Land said.

Sorry, coach, it wasn’t. “Just another game” is coachspeak, and we all understand it. Coaches don’t want their teams to be too up or too down. They don’t want a little success come crumbling down with the slightest mistake. Coaches want teams to be very even. But we are all human and the emotional part of the game — especially in a game that means just a little bit more — comes to the forefront.

Last week in a win over Ridgeland, the Catamounts were very business-like after their win over the Panthers. They had done what they were supposed to do, and didn’t celebrate like they had accomplished anything more than what they expected. At Bruins Stadium, you saw the difference in the attitudes of both the coaches and the players.

“Just another game” can be very boring. This wasn’t. From the beginning, you knew it was different.

In addition to the added factor between schools and players who grow up with each other, this game was big for the implications. Both Northwest and Dalton had shown in the first half of the season that there was a gap between themselves and the other teams in Sub-region 7B-4A.

The winner was likely the sub-region champion — coachspeak aside, both teams should be favored through the sub-region schedule — and Dalton secured a spot in the region championship game and will be hosting a state playoff game at Harmon Field if it wins its last three sub-region games.

The fact that it came over a rival just makes it all the sweeter for the Cats and all the more hurtful for a Northwest team which looked to be in control of the game when Land said his team was too pumped up.

Down 14-7 and with Northwest poised to extend that lead out to a pair of touchdowns after converting a fake punt, Dalton needed someone to make a play. It came on a pass from Northwest quarterback Caleb Shiflett that was nearly perfect. It wasn’t underthrown, and if Shiflett had thrown it any harder, wide receiver Andy Whisenant wouldn’t have had a chance of catching it.

That it was such a good throw shows exactly how great the interception was by Jordan McKinney — a sophomore corner.

And that was just one of the great plays — by both sides, orange and white — which were on display Friday.

This was an epic battle and a heavyweight championship fight and a shootout and all of the other different ways you want to describe it.

It was all of those things and more with so many stars.

Jacob Webb proved that Northwest’s offense isn’t all about passing with 151 yards on 31 carries.

Payton Veraldi grew up in a hurry and took over the leadership jacket for the Dalton offense with the quarterback rushing for 112 yards and throwing for 79.

Tevin McDaniel provided the highlight play of the year with a 68-yard catch and run that saw him spin and sidestep and escape multiple tackles.

Chase Westfall proved that he can catch just about anything thrown his way at tight end for Dalton.

It was that kind of night — perhaps the best game ever in the history of the rivalry, as no other game in the series has been decided by a closer margin.

It was the kind of night that has coaches throwing out another cliché: “This is what makes Friday night so special.”

It certainly does, and regardless of the outcome, you got your money’s worth.

It takes a game of this magnitude with this amount of emotion and with this amount of quality play and quality players to make it special.

It doesn’t happen when you are playing “just another game.”

Chris Whitfield is a sports writer for The Dailt Citizen. Contact him at chriswhitfield @daltoncitizen.com.

1
Text Only
Sports Columns
  • Whitfield, Chris.JPG Chris Whitfield: Football fans may lose, but Mora will win with decision

    Throughout my career, I have been lucky enough to see some of the finest athletes this state has ever produced. From professional athletes who went on to the NFL, MLB and the NBA to college washouts who still rank as the finest high school athletes I have ever seen, I have been blessed.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Larry Case: Camping a sure cure for the big city blues

    In case you haven’t noticed, we are looking right down the gun barrel at winding down on another summer.

    July 25, 2014

  • Chris Whitfield's Fairways & Greens: Nob North prepares for 'big date'

    Like anyone getting ready for a big date, golf courses get dressed up when it is time for a major event. But while a woman may put on a little makeup and a man may add a spray of cologne, Nob North Golf Course in Varnell is getting something more akin to Botox.

    July 24, 2014

  • 7on7 day 2 '14 17 mlh.jpg Devin Golden: Friday signals gridiron days’ official start

    Seven-on-seven football was a good placeholder, but it’s time to begin talking about the real thing.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Loran Smith: Golf now in era of McIlroy after Open

    Royal & Ancient officials, under whose auspices the Open championship is conducted each year, were blessed with a sun-kissed start of the final round of the 143rd playing of this historic event.

    July 21, 2014

  • Loran Smith: McIlroy at his peak at Hoylake

    HOYLAKE, England — It’s the setting which enraptures those who appreciate the things that accompany a championship, The British refuse to let a downpour or two, intermittent and inconvenient, to make them fret.

    July 20, 2014

  • Loran Smith: Change is needed for major titles

    HOYLAKE, England — This is a good time to be Bubba Watson — long off the tee which brings golf aficionados through the gates, two Masters titles which puts him in the pantheon of the greats at Augusta, deal-makers hovering about, more perks than a palace prince, exempt status to the end of the decade and a cash flow that resembles a raging river.

    July 19, 2014

  • Loran Smith: Harman is living his childhood golf dream

    HOYLAKE, England — One thing about golf that has remained constant since Young Tom Morris won his fourth Open in a row in 1872 — when Ulysses Grant was president of the United States and Brigham Young was arrested for bigamy (he had 25 wives) — is that a little man can play the game.
    Football players are becoming bigger — often illegally — and basketball players are growing taller, but a golfer can excel at any dimension if he hones his skills enough to get the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes. Golf is not a behemoth sport; there are no concussions, no strikeouts and no fistfights. Let the game prosper.

    July 18, 2014

  • Loran Smith: Brits know how to hold classy affairs

    HOYLAKE, England — Summertime is a royal time for the British, who have more sporting options in a six-week period than some societies have in a lifetime.
    If you think the U.S. is keen on sport — with the NBA finals lasting into June and baseball and golf dominating the scene — consider what takes place in the land of our forebears. Wimbledon gets underway the last week in June for a fortnight of resonating excitement. Wimbledon is like Augusta National or Churchill Downs — a memorable experience regardless of who walks away with first prize.

    July 15, 2014

  • A Look Ahead: State golf coming to Nob North

    My history as a golfer can be summed up with some well-known words from 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes — “nasty, brutish and short.”

    July 14, 2014