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Trojans fall a kick short at Ringgold, 55-54

POSTED: November 16, 2013 12:13 a.m.

RINGGOLD — Call it courage. Or justice, or karma, or law of averages, or maybe big dumb luck.

Ringgold football coach Robert Akins called it “persistence.”

What matters is that the Tigers took the best sixth-ranked North Hall had to offer and pulled out their first-ever GHSA playoff win Friday night, 55-54 over the Trojans in four remarkable regulation quarters.

“To me, this is Ringgold’s biggest win ever because it’s a playoff game,” said Akins, who learned moments before that the Tigers would be hosting Cedar Grove next week after its four-overtime upset of Elbert County. “This was a rough night for our defense. Trying to tackle (North Hall quarterback Andrew) Smith was like trying to tackle a squirrel. But our offense did everything we could ask all night long.”

Senior quarterback Slade Dale gave the Tigers the game of his life. Dale ran the ball 22 times for 164 yards and four touchdowns — including the Tigers’ last one from 14 yards out with 1:43 to play. He also fired a pair of touchdown passes to Christian Plott and 220 yards.

Dale’s score tied the game at 54-54 and Abel Vargas tacked on the PAT for the all-important one-point lead. That wound up being a key play because North Hall missed a second PAT after Destin Bennett’s touchdown with 4:17 left in the game.

Because the Trojans had shown no ability to stop Ringgold, North Hall coach Bob Christmas called for an onside kick. One lone Tiger, J.T. Roach, was alert on the play and recovered it short of 10 yards while surrounded by five Trojans.

“We hadn’t stopped them all night,” Christmas said. “We felt if we recovered the kick, we could run out the clock. With a better kick, we might have.”

Instead, it left Ringgold with a short field. Dale needed only six plays to get the go-ahead touchdown.

“I was afraid 1:43 was too much time,” Akins said. “We knew they’d trap us — it’s what they did all night.”

The Trojans drove to the Tigers’ 23, where they were called for a motion penalty while lining up for a potential go-ahead field goal. That 5 yards may have been the difference, as the 45-yard attempt drilled the crossbar dead center.

It felt to many of the Ringgold loyalists who turned out on this misty night that their Tigers took North Hall’s best shot in the first half. Indeed, the Trojans had to spend their halftime session figuring out how they lost leads of 21-7, 28-14 and 35-28 along the way. The Tigers’ only lead was their last.

For Ringgold (9-2), Dale wound up with 384 total yards. For North Hall (8-3), sophomore running back Zac Little carried the ball 32 times for 275 yards.


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