DALTON, Ga. -- High school kids usually don't like to put pressure on themselves intentionally, but most high school kids aren't in the same mold as Slade Dale.
The Ringgold High School senior quarterback had proclaimed the 2013 football season to be one for the history books for a program that has very little to brag about. Friday night Dale more than held up his promise as the Tigers defeated Dalton for the first time in 33 years, 33-27 in triple overtime.
The elusive Dale rushed for 222 yards on 32 carries and three touchdowns, two coming in a wild set of OTs in which each team made big plays and big mistakes.
"It's just crazy. This is one of the happiest days of my life," Dale said after the two exhausted teams prayed together in the center of Harmon Field. "We just made history for Ringgold. This team will go down in history, that's all I've got to say. This is the start of something big."
Ringgold, which tied the game at 14 on Dale's 12-yard run midway through the fourth quarter, scored first in overtime when D.L. Goins went up the middle for an 8-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-3. The Catamounts, who alternated quarterbacks Payton Veraldi and Jase Chastain during the game, tied it on Jastain's 2-yard run, then took a six-point lead in the second overtime on Veraldi's 7-yard keeper. Ringgold linebacker Dakota Baer, however, blocked the PAT, giving the Tigers a chance to win it.
Ringgold didn't take long, scoring on the second play when Dale broke free on a scramble around right end for a 14-yard touchdown. However, Chris Watts' try to win it was blocked by the entire middle of the Dalton defensive front, sending the game to a third extra session.
Ringgold found itself in a third-and-8 after a penalty, but Dale came through again, breaking two tackles during a long scramble to the Dalton 1. On the next play he sneaked in, but the try for two points was no good, giving the Catamounts the shot to win it. But the Tigers caught a fortunate break.
On third-and-8 Dalton spread the field with three receivers and appeared to have a man wide open in the flat, but Ringgold coaches called time out just before the snap. Dalton changed to a power formation, and when Veraldi's pitch was fumbled at the 15, the Tigers had their momentous win.
"It was really an outstanding night against a really good football team," Ringgold coach Robert Akins said. "That timeout was really close, but it was so loud that they couldn't hear me. We had to call it because they were in a formation we hadn't seen all night. We changed the call, but they changed their offense to something more conducive to what we played. We were lucky in that situation that our coaches caught it in time.
"What can I say about Dale?" Akins added. "He's just special. He's one of those kids who will always give you everything he has. Somehow, when it looks like he's got nothing he does something to help you win. It's his senior year and he really wanted to start this year special and he sure did."
Baer, who was easily in on more than 20 tackles from his middle linebacker spot, was nearly mugged by jubilant Ringgold fans after the game, but the senior didn't seem to mind.
"It's been 35 years since Ringgold beat Dalton, and it feels awesome," he said. "That stand in overtime meant everything to us. We have been working hard all summer for that one, and we were ready to get after these guys. We just held on and now we can celebrate."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...