Sports

October 18, 2013

Every step a little closer

Dalton can’t afford to relax; Northwest, Southeast look to bounce back

With a win two weeks ago over Ridgeland High School and last week’s thrilling 31-28 last-second win over Northwest Whitfield, Dalton finds itself alone atop the Sub-region 7B-4A standings. The Catamounts’ final three sub-region games are against teams with a combined four wins and region observers are looking forward to a championship game between Dalton and Cedartown on Nov. 8.

But Dalton coach Matt Land is quick to point out that his team hasn’t accomplished any of its goals yet and tonight’s homecoming game with LaFayette is a dangerous one.

“You’ve heard me say this before, but whatever the best game is that a team can play, we are going to get it,” Land said. “This LaFayette team is one that is more than capable, and it seems like teams that are missing something find it the week they play us.”

In other local games tonight, Coahulla Creek visits Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe and North Murray hosts Ringgold in Region 5-3A matchups; Murray County welcomes Calhoun in Region 7-2A action; and Northwest Whitfield visits Ridgeland while Southeast Whitfield hosts Heritage-Catoosa in 7B-4A matchups. All kickoffs are set for 7:30 p.m.

The Catamounts (4-2, 2-0) have bounced back from opening the season with a pair of losses to win four straight games. A lot of the turnaround has been credited to the return of running back Kelvis Rhodes, who has opened up the offense with his big-play potential. After missing both of the losses with a shoulder injury, Rhodes has rushed for 497 yards and nine touchdowns in the four wins.

But it has also been about more than just the return of one player.

“It is two things,” Land said. “It is confidence of the players in what we as coaches have been building to each week. They see the wisdom of the coaches and what they have been preaching each week.

“Secondly, they needed to develop some confidence in themselves. They have kind of developed a realistic expectation of what they can and cannot do. Now they have confidence in our scheme and in themselves.”

Even though the Cats lost quarterback Jase Chastain to a broken leg, the team is as healthy as it has been all year.

“We are as healthy as we can be after playing six games,” Land said. “We are still waiting to hear back on fullbck Jacob Bartoo, who is out with a high ankle sprain and those things can take a week to six weeks. The rest of it is dings that you are going to have this time of the year.”

LaFayette is in its first season under coach Chad Fisher, who came to the school after going 28-40 at Gordon Central. In Fisher’s final three seasons with the Warriors, Godron Central was 20-12 with two trips to the state playoffs.

While wins haven’t come yet and the Ramblers were on the wrong end of Heritage ending a 15-game losing streak last week, Land said Fisher will have the Ramblers in the win column soon.

“They are a team that is very similar to Ridgeland with a lot of talent and speed and size and experience,” Land said. “Coach Fisher is trying to move to an offense to take advantage of the speed that they have, and it has been a progression. He will do a good job over there.”

Quarterback Lance Estus has completed 34 of 44 passes for 434 yards and five touchdowns in the Ramblers’ last two games.

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