Sports

November 8, 2013

Region title, state dreams

Act II of Dalton-Gilmer in Ellijay for championship

Over the past four seasons, Dalton High School and Gilmer have struck up a nice rivalry as tonight’s meeting between the two football teams will be the sixth in the last four seasons.

And even though Dalton has won four of those previous five meetings, Gilmer won the only game between the two with a playoff spot on the line, beating Dalton 15-13 in 2010 to deny the Catamounts a trip to the state playoffs.

Tonight, both teams are assured of making the state playoffs, but the Region 7-4A title and the opportunity to host through at least the first two rounds of the playoffs are at stake.

“This one is definitely the biggest game between us,” Gilmer coach Wesley Tankersley said. “Although we have only won one, it has been a big rivalry since we won four years ago. You know that it is always going to be a hard-hitting and well-played football game when these two teams meet."

In other games tonight, Northwest Whitfield travels to Pickens in a Region 7-4A play-in game with the winner advancing to the state playoffs, North Murray is at Gordon Central in a game with Class 3A state playoff implications and Christian Heritage travels to Roswell to take on Fellowship Christian in a game which will affect the final Class A private school power ratings. Also, Southeast Whitfield is at Cass, Coahulla Creek travels to Adairsville and Murray County is at Coosa.

Dalton (7-2) is playing for its first region title since 2007, and coach Matt Land said his team expects the game to be a true “championship” bout.

“I enjoy playing teams like Gilmer,” Land said. “They are a team that is going to do what they do. We have a lot of respect for Gilmer. It is a fun game, and you know that you are going to face someone like it is a prize fight, going toe-to-toe and fist-to-fist. Our kids like that style, and I am sure Gilmer likes that style. It fits both school’s blue-collar mentality.”

This is the second meeting between the two teams this season with Dalton taking a 31-0 win over the Bobcats (8-1) in the third game of the year. The contest marked the return of running back Kelvis Rhodes from injury and saw Gilmer quarterback Chris James leave the game early with an injury. Land said the previous meeting will have no bearing on tonight’s game.

“There is as little correlation from that game to today as comparing apples to bicycles,” Land said. “Both teams have matured since that game. Both teams have become more balanced. They have changed, and we have changed. This game will be a completely different game from the first game.”

Tankersley agreed.

“It has been a good progression for us from that game,” Tankersley said. “We will definitely find out (tonight) just how far we have come. We started out the year with a lot of unknowns, and even looking at Dalton at that time, we had a lot of unknowns. We have progressed a lot, but they have progressed as well. It will be a great game.”

Since his injury, James and Thaddeus Bowers have shared time under center for the Bobcats, but the driving force of the offense is fullback Tyler Bertolini.

On the other side of the ball, linebacker Austin Cole is the leading tackler.

Gilmer is coming off a 38-35 win over Cedartown, which decided the Sub-region 7A title. Dalton hasn’t been challenged since winning 31-28 over rival Northwest Whitfield on a game-ending field goal on Oct. 11. The Cats have given up three points and posted three shutouts in their last four games.

“Although there are some different things that we do, our styles are similar,” Tankersley said. “We have started to throw the ball more, but most of our passes — and the same for them — are based off of the run game and what the other team is going to give you. We both place a big emphasis on the defensive side of the ball.”

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