October 21, 2013

Friday Night Rewind: Winning week for Bruins, Cats, Raiders

The Daily Citizen
sports@daltoncitizen.com

— One week after allowing Dalton High School to run the ball down the field for a game-winning field goal, Northwest Whitfield’s defense had what Bruins coach Josh Robinson called possibly its best game of the season.

Northwest won 21-10 at Sub-region 7B-4A foe Ridgeland and holds a 2-1 record in league play with two games remaining before the Region 7-4A “play-in” game to determine the region’s Nos. 3 and 4 seeds for the Class 4A state playoffs.

In other local games, Coahulla Creek lost 28-18 at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, Dalton trounced LaFayette 64-0, Murray County lost 61-0 to Calhoun, North Murray lost 49-27 to Ringgold and Southeast Whitfield rallied to a 27-13 victory against Heritage-Catoosa.

For the Bruins, who improved to 6-1 overall, facing an athletic Panthers offense that was coming off a 35-20 win against Southeast one week earlier was a challenge. It was even more so considering Northwest had just lost for the first time all year, 31-28 to rival Dalton.

“I know we didn’t get all the turnovers and all that kind of stuff, but we still played probably the best on defense that we have all season,” Robinson said. “As athletic as they are, we did a pretty good job of limiting the big play. We were able to stop them on a fourth-and-short, which is a really big play.”

Ridgeland’s only touchdown came on a 40-yard run in the second quarter. The Panthers kicked a 38-yard field goal in the third quarter.

Ridgeland produced all but 48 of its 234 total yards on the ground. The defensive line was active, with Caleb Bowie and Isaiah Mack amassing a number of tackles.

Offensively, things weren’t as bright on the scoreboard. Northwest’s 21 points scored was the lowest output from the team this season.

“Our running game was very good against Dalton,” Robinson said. “Up front, we didn’t play as well in the Ridgeland game. However, it was probably the best pass protection all year. They brought a lot of different things. ... We seem to have a breakdown every time, every game on defense. The one touchdown they scored, we had three major mistakes on the same play.”

• Coahulla Creek (2-5, 1-3 Region 5-3A) implemented a no-huddle offense during the past week, and the Colts made it work well in the first half on Friday.

The LFO defense was on its heels for most of the first quarter as Coahulla Creek moved the ball and controlled the clock. The offense ran 47 plays in the first two quarters, 25 of which were passing plays.

However, the Warriors took advantage of their opportunities after halftime, something the Colts were unable to do.

“Our game plan was to run a lot of plays, and I thought we ran a lot of plays in the first half and moved the ball really well,” Coahulla Creek coach Jared Hamlin said. “But several things didn’t go our way (after halftime). We can only control what we do.”

Hamlin was proud of his team’s effort on both sides of the ball, especially the 99-yard drive in the second quarter that was the result of his defense stopping two consecutive rushing plays from the 1-yard line.

“We had a great goal-line stand there in the first half,” Hamlin said. “And then the next drive we take it the length of the field. ... It was good to see.”

The Colts put together four drives of 11 plays or longer and gained that same number of first downs in their first three possessions of the first half, coming away with 10 points.

• Coming off of a last-second win over Northwest to take control of the Sub-region 7B-4A race a week ago, Dalton coach Matt Land could have had a few jitters going into a homecoming game against winless LaFayette.

But Land said those concerns were taken away as the Catamounts (5-2, 3-0) prepared for the Ramblers.

“We talked about the emotion of the Northwest game and how you can’t get caught up in that,” Land said. “We have a job to do, and this team was very businesslike all week long in their preparation in practice and in their execution in the game.”

There was very little to complain about in one of the most complete wins during Land’s four seasons as coach. The offense put up a ton of points, the defense recorded another shutout and Dalton completely dominated special teams. Dalton’s return yardage gave the offense a short field to play with all night long, and the defense allowed just two first downs in the first half.

All of those things have Land seeing one thing in particular about this year’s team.

“Maturity,” he said. “All we are asking of them is, ‘Are you better this week than you were last week?’ They understand the process and they are reaping the benefits of the harvest.”

• Despite the one-sided loss in its homecoming game against powerful Calhoun, Murray County’s players and fans for the most part kept their heads high.

Even with the Indians (1-6, 0-4 Region 7-2A) trailing 41-0 at halftime, some of the Indians — taking time away from the game — participated in the homecoming ceremonies. That is rare on the high school level.

Murray County’s players and backers at the end of the game wanted badly to avert a shutout. Reaching the Yellow Jackets’ 3-yard line, they could go no farther but not without the tremendous effort.

Even rugged Dalton, a Region 7-4A contender, could not get an offensive score against Calhoun. The lone points in a 17-2 defeat were produced by a safety from the defense.

Calhoun amassed 565 yards of total offense — 320 passing and 245 rushing. Meanwhile, Murray County was limited to 116 yards total — 56 running and 50 throwing.

Indians coach Chad Brewer knows that his squad must have full effort every week to be competitive. There still are three games left to salvage the season, starting Friday night with a visit to Dade County.

• Despite starting 0-4 in Region 5-3A play, North Murray is not eliminated from Class 3A state playoff contention.

And in fact, the Mountaineers (1-6) only need a little bit of outside help.

North Murray finishes its season against three schools with a combined record of 5-16 — starting Friday with LFO and finishing with Coahulla Creek and Gordon Central — and if the Mountaineers win all three and finish 3-4 in league play, they could end up in a three-way tie for the league’s fourth spot.

The most logical scenario North Murray is hoping for is LFO to beat Sonoraville in the final week of the season and have those two teams also finish 3-4 along with the Mountaineers.

“To win those three games and go to the playoffs would be huge for these seniors and the young guys coming back next year,” North Murray coach David Gann said.

In Friday’s loss to Ringgold, which is 4-0 in league play and looking at a region-title showdown in three weeks with undefeated Cartersville, North Murray trailed 28-3 at halftime but scored four touchdowns in the second half, including a 47-yard strike in the fourth quarter from Hinton McConkey to Darius Towns.

“We’ve been in the fourth quarter of every game except this one and Cartersville,” Gann said. “Things are going to get better.”

• Southeast (4-3, 2-1 Sub-region 7B-4A) turned in a strong team performance with all-around excellence with blocking, tackling and big plays on both sides of the ball at just the right time against the Generals.

Raiders running back Tyler Brown churned out 91 yards for the game, including a 74-yard touchdown run to seal the win. A wrestler whose intensity is just as strong on the grass as it is on the mat, the human pinball bounced off Generals tacklers for tough gains before his long scoring run.

Raiders quarterback Will Swantic threw some excellent passes and ran for 65 yards. His receivers excelled on many routes as Colter Faith caught passes of 21 and 23 yards and even had a 9-yard run.

Raiders receiver Chaz Payne turned in some highlights as well. Payne caught a 27-yard pass from Swantic early in the game, then secured a 13-yard toss before snaring a one-handed, sideline-cheating pass reception for 18 yards in the second quarter, setting up a 13-yard touchdown run by Swantic.

Raiders senior Blake Foster had a big night as well with a 37-yard reception to set up a field goal by Jonathon Sanchez. Foster later caught a 27-yard touchdown from Rhett Harper to put Southeast up 20-13.