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April 7, 2014

Marty Kirkland: High-stakes series this week for rivals

There are plenty of reasons why Dalton and Northwest Whitfield have developed a rivalry that brings a bit of intrigue to most athletic contests between the two high schools.

Proximity figures largely, of course. The years — decades now — that have gone into making “next time” an anticipated occasion matter, too.

One factor that shouldn’t be overlooked, though, is the matter that there is often something beyond those highly coveted bragging rights at stake when the Catamounts and Bruins find themselves in the same arena.

That’s the case this week as the two tangle in a three-game Sub-region 7B-4A baseball series. Dalton (13-3) hosts at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Friday, while the Bruins (12-4) are home at the same time Thursday.

Both teams are 8-1 in sub-region play and tied atop the 7B-4A standings, ahead of Heritage (6-3), Southeast Whitfield (4-5), Ridgeland (1-8) and LaFayette (0-9). Dalton’s lone league loss came to Ridgeland, while Northwest’s was to Southeast. After this week, Dalton will have played everyone in the sub-region save Heritage; Northwest’s only remaining series will be against LaFayette.

After that, it’s time for the Region 7-4A playoffs — and just what’s on the line then will depend largely on what happens this week.

The winner of each sub-region will face the other in a three-game series with a spot in state already guaranteed but the region title and a No. 1 seed the prize. The No. 2 finisher in each sub-region faces the No. 3 seed from the other in a three-game series with the winners advancing to state and the losers done for the season.

Obviously, being No. 1 has its perks. So does beating a rival in the big games.

• Speaking of rivalries, the area’s best when it comes to boys soccer will be renewed again Friday as Southeast hosts Dalton.

While this meeting won’t figure into the Sub-region 7B-4A standings — the Cats beat the Raiders 2-0 when they played on March 7 at Harmon Field with league implications on the line — it will be a good final test for each team before the Region 7-4A playoffs begin next week.

The soccer is almost always top-notch when these two programs take the field, but the matchup could have some added weight if the Cats beat Allatoona on Tuesday to extend their unbeaten streak to 35 matches.

• I generally leave the hardcore golf reporting to Chris Whitfield — who would rather be on the links than anywhere else most of the time — and his Fairways and Greens column. But like a lot of Georgians, for at least one week each year I pay a little more attention to the game.

Thoughts of the Masters inevitably bring me back to the realization that while we may not be in Augusta, this area certainly loves its golf, too. For evidence, just check out our Local Sports Calendar at daltonnow.com/sportscalendar and the abundance of options when it comes to charity golf tournaments in the coming weeks. Now and early fall are your best bets if you’re looking to get together with a buddy (or three) and test yourself on the greens while raising green for a good cause.

If you’re hosting a charity golf tournament (or other local sports event you’d like to see in our calendar), please let us know the details by sending a note to sports@daltoncitizen.com.

• Just as area golfers should consider themselves spoiled — or at least their good walks spoiled, thanks to the quality of local courses — the same is true of baseball fans here.

In addition to the Atlanta Braves being less than two hours away, the Rome Braves and Chattanooga Lookouts (a Los Angeles Dodgers affiliate) offer the opportunity to see budding superstars almost in your backyard.

Rome host its home opener at 7 p.m. Thursday, starting a four-game series against the Savannah Sand Gnats. The Lookouts close out a season-opening homestand at 7:15 tonight against the Jackson (Tenn.) Generals; they won’t be back until a week from today.

For information on tickets and the teams, visit romebraves.com or lookouts.com.

Marty Kirkland is sports editor of The Daily Citizen. In his lone visit to the Masters for a Tuesday practice round, he failed in his mission to try every sandwich on the menu. Have something you think he should highlight in “A Look Ahead”? Write to him at martykirkland@daltoncitizen.com

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