September 9, 2013

Friday Night Rewind: Cats have different sort of trouble with the run

The Daily Citizen

— When Dalton High School’s football team opened its season Aug. 23 with a 33-27 triple-overtime loss to Ringgold at Harmon Field, the Catamounts had little trouble running the ball but plenty of problems defending it.

This past Friday at Calhoun, the opposite was true.

Dalton was limited to 38 yards on the ground as it lost 17-2 to fall to 0-2 for the first time since 1975.

In other games from Friday, Christian Heritage beat Murray County 51-0, Coahulla Creek lost 25-13 to Gordon Lee, North Murray lost 30-26 to Dade County and Southeast Whitfield held off Gordon Central, 17-6.

In Dalton’s season-opening loss, the Cats rushed for 248 yards, with 123 coming from tailback Tyler Noland. The sophomore once again filled in for junior starter Kelvis Rhodes — a 1,500-yard rusher in 2012, he missed his second straight game because of a lingering preseason shoulder injury — but this time Noland was limited to just 5 yards on nine carries. He only had one attempt in the second half.

Dalton had two possessions that started in Calhoun (2-0) territory, thanks to a first-half interception by Nathan Bryant and a second-half fumble recovery by Devonte Davis. However, neither possession resulted in points. The Cats’ second-half possession, with the score 14-2, ended at the Calhoun 6-yard line.

“I just think we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had,” Dalton coach Matt Land said.

Against Ringgold, Dalton allowed 325 yards rushing. Versus Calhoun, it was just 94. The Yellow Jackets did most of their damage through the air, with quarterback Fields Chapman throwing for 218 yards off 14 of 22 passing. Tydus Curtis had four receptions for 155 yards.

“I think the two strengths of both teams is the defense,” Yellow Jackets coach Hal Lamb said. “I think Dalton felt good about its defense coming in.”

The Cats are off again this week before hosting Gilmer on Sept. 20.

• When a team erupts for 51 points and fashions a shutout, it is difficult to be anything except positive about the performance.

That was the situation for Christian Heritage (1-1) against Murray County (0-2).

“We know that things are going to get tougher down the road,” Lions coach Preston Poag said. “However, I’m pleased with the complete-game performance.”

The Lions removed some of the bitter taste from a 35-28 season-opening loss to Model the prior week, when they had five turnovers. They had just one against the Indians, an interception. If the Lions can continued to minimize turnovers, their offense will be difficult to stop for the remainder of the season.

Senior quarterback Trevor Brown, who threw three touchdown passes, now has seven touchdown passes in two games. Freshman running back Ahmaad Tanner brings some welcomed quickness to the spread offense as evidenced by his 115 yards on 11 carries, which made him the game’s leading rusher.

The Lions’ ball-hawking defense featured Devin Smtih, who had an interception and a fumble recovery.

Christian Heritage now turns its sights on a Friday night visit to intracounty foe Coahulla Creek.

“These rivalry games always are good to have,” Poag said. “There is a lot of interest in them.”

Murray County, which lost its opener to Coahulla Creek, 35-9, didn’t see the same progress as the Indians from the first to second game. The Indians were without senior two-way lineman Clay Thornbury, a four-year starter who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Coahulla Creek.

“I don’t think that we took a step backward,” Indians coach Chad Brewer said. “There was just no improvement. Our kids played with a lot of effort but not the same desire and passion as the week before against Coahulla Creek. Missing Clay certainly hurt a lot. You can’t replace a guy like him, though we need some others to step up.”

Murray County showed some grit in the second quarter while trailing 24-0 and facing fourth-and-15 from its own 25. On a fake punt, Alex Youngquist connected with Brandon Smith on a 35-yard pass for the Indians’ longest gain of the night.

The play energized a small but spirited home crowd. Unfortunately, an interception killed the drive. On the next series, a touchdown pass was nullified due to a penalty.

Murray County will try to break a 20-game losing streak Friday night at Gordon Central, which also has started the season 0-2.

• Coahulla Creek (1-1) coach Jared Hamlin had some depth trouble against Gordon Lee, when several starters were missing time for various ailments, although most saw time on the field at some point during the game.

Hamlin emphasized that the lack of personnel didn’t justify an insufficient performance in the second half against the Trojans.

“We’ve got some injuries,” Hamlin said. “I’ve got quite a few kids out, quite a few kids out there that were injured but were playing through it. But that’s not an excuse. We’ve got to get healthy, and once we get everybody back we’re going to be fine.”

Penalties during key moments proved costly for the Colts, who committed 10 for 70 yards. With a 7-6 lead at the 9:52 mark in the third quarter, a 30-yard pass from Blaine Williams to Marquis Monroe in coverage could have given the Colts first-and-goal at the 1. The play was called back due to offensive pass interference.

“When you have an opportunity to make a play and you get it called back, that always hurts,” Hamlin said. “That was big, but it was (the right call). We kind of gave a little push in the back and I don’t know that we needed to do that. Those things (penalties), we can’t give up. We’ll work hard to correct those things — we’ll continue to and we’ll get better at them.”

• North Murray (0-2) had a trio of capable ball carriers last season in seniors Christian Bukle (fullback), Jacob Mays (tailback) and Brady Swilling (quarterback).

In Friday’s close loss to Dade County, the offense may have found a running back to help replace the statistics put up by those three. Sophomore Drake McCowan rushed for a team-high 117 yards on 23 carries, which was also a team best.

McCowan was especially active on North Murray’s first drive of the game. Down 7-0, McCowan was called on to carry the ball six times. He responded well with 37 yards.

Throughout the game, McCowan sought tough yardage between the tackles and was also effective outside the box. He took several pitches on option plays from quarterback Hinton McConkey for big gains.

• For Southeast, a lot has been made of the year 1989 in the past week.

It has been that long ago since the Raiders started a season 2-0, a feat this year’s team matched with Friday’s win.

But besides Kevin Costner building a baseball field out in the corn and tanks rolling through Tiananmen Square, what else happened that year?

For the Raiders it meant a 5-5 season with no postseason berth. After beating Chattooga and Etowah to start the season, Southeast lost to Cass and Lovett in the next two weeks. The Raiders beat Murray County and Northwest Whitfield that year, but they lost 28-0 to Dalton. Their other win on the season came against Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe.

This year’s team will look to keep the winning going at Gilmer this week, and they will rely on their defense to get another victory.

The first-team defense has yet to be scored upon this season. In the season opener, North Murray scored on a kickoff return and a touchdown late in the game against the backup unit. Gordon Central’s lone score came on a 50-yard fumble return.