October 26, 2013

Cats take title with game to spare

Rout Generals, win sub-region

Chris Whitfield

— It is rare for a coach to be upset with a 44-3 victory, especially after his team holds its opponent to negative yardage.

But in Dalton High School football coach Matt Land’s opinion, five penalties of 10 or more yards, a lost fumble, an interception and problems in the kicking game tarnished Friday night’s Sub-region 7B-4A victory over Heritage-Catoosa by that score at Jeff Sims Field.

“It was not a good night of Catamount football,” Dalton coach Matt Land said. “It was enough to win and it was enough to get the job done, but it was not enough for our players and our leadership to be happy with. We played good, and there are clearly some things we did well, but there are no excuses for penalties and there are no excuses for turnovers. We thought we had left those down the road.”

But Dalton improved to 4-0 in the sub-region with its sixth straight victory since starting the season 0-2 and clinched the sub-region championship. Even with a loss to Southeast Whitfield in the sub-region finale next Friday, the Cats will play for the region championship on Nov. 8 — they’ll travel to face the Sub-region 7B-4A champion — and are assured of hosting a game at least in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.

Still, Land wasn’t satisfied with Friday’s showing.

“We have to go back to work and get things corrected,” he said. “Where we will be dissatisfied defensively is that we didn’t get a shutout. That is important to our coaches and important to our players. Most people will look at whether you got a ‘W’ or an ‘L’, but these defensive players work hard to get a shutout.”

They couldn’t have done much more than they did as Heritage finished with minus-19 yards of total offense on a night when there was a running clock throughout the entire second half after Dalton led 34-3 at halftime.

But the Generals (1-7, 0-4) took advantage of a short field after a 44-yard kickoff return by Damian Goins on Heritage’s opening possession. Heritage converted on a fourth down before stalling at the Dalton 11 and settling for a 28-yard field goal.

That was the only damage done on the scoreboard by the Generals, who had just two first downs the remainder of the night. Dalton intercepted quarterback Dylan Bice three times, with Devonte Davis getting two of those picks and Jordon McKinney grabbing the other.

Cats quarterback Payton Veraldi completed 6 of 8 passes for 101 yards while throwing for a score and running for another.

On the ground, the Cats rolled up 257 yards with nine runners spreading the load. Kelvis Rhodes, who had touchdown runs of 6 and 26 yards, finished with 84 yards on 14 carries.

Eder Mora had a 30-yard scoring run and also converted on a fake punt for a 27 yard gain. Tyler Noland, who had a 69-yard punt return to set up Rhodes’ 6-yard scoring run, capped the scoring for Dalton with a 13-yard run midway through the fourth quarter.