Prep football November 15East Hamilton's Hunter Moore (12) dives over Ooltewah's Adrian Hall (21) Friday at Ooltewah's home field.
The star: Alexander running back Mikell Lands-Davis rushed for a hard-earned 185 yards on 39 carries to lift the Cougars to the first-round upset.
Up next: Alexander plays at Lanier next week.
DALTON, Ga. — The what-might-have-beens may haunt the Dalton Catamounts after losing to Alexander, 13-10, in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA football playoffs Friday at Harmon Field.
Jeremiah Michel's 27-yard field goal as time expired ended Dalton's season at 8-3, though just minutes earlier it appeared the Catamounts had taken a late lead.
A holding-penalty flag, thrown as Zek Cobb streaked into the Alexander end zone, negated what would have been a Dalton touchdown with four minutes to play. The Catamounts had to settle for a Kiko Rodriguez field goal, tying the game at 10, and when the Cougars quickly drove down the field for Michel's game-winner, Dalton coach Matt Land was left shaking his head.
"That's a shame for that to happen after what was a very cleanly played game," Land said. "We made a couple of penalties at the end of the game, and they really hurt us. We got the penalty, no matter the circumstance, so we had to take it and we lost. It's a tough one to take."
The Cougars (7-4) took over at their own 23 and immediately put the game on the broad shoulders of junior running back Mikell Lands-Davis. Two runs netted a first down and, with the Cats keying on Lands-Davis, quarterback Baylor Whitfield passed to Brian Dansereau for 21 yards to the Dalton 44. Davis, who bulled his way for 185 yards on 39 bruising carries, gained 16 more on four carries and later moved the ball to the 11 as coach Matt Combs called a timeout with four seconds to play.
Michell, after an icing timeout by Land, calmly nailed the kick and sent Alexander to a rare second-round appearance.
"I wanted the ball, of course," Davis-Lands of the final drive. "We moved the chains behind my great offensive line and just kept going. Alexander hasn't been in the playoffs in 17 years, so this is the first for us and it starts our legacy."
Alexander, which outgained Dalton 330 yards to 227, had all six of its drives in the first half reach Dalton territory but scored onlyl once, on Lands-Davis' 5-yard run late in the half. The Catamounts, held to three first downs to that point, took to the air to answer, with Payton Veraldi hitting tight end Jase Westfall for a 47-yard touchdown with 1:07 to play to tie the game at 7.
Both defenses tightened up in the second half, though Lands-Davis had 113 of his yards after intermission. His 30-yard run ending the third quarter keyed a long Alexander drive that ended with Michel's 35-yard field goal with 10:20 to play. Dalton then began a drive that would last 16 plays, though one will stay in the Cats' minds for some time.
On first-and-goal from the Alexander 10, Cobb, playing because of the limited availability of star tailback Kelvis Rhodes and an injury to backup Tyler Noland, took a pitch and sprinted around left end and into the end zone, but the late flag negated the score and ultimately led to the tying field goal. The Catamounts would not touch the ball again.
"We got the word Wednesday that Kelvis had contacted mono, so we had to change our game plan," Land said. "But, hey, these guys didn't complain and came out here and gave us all they had, just as they have all year long. The only thing I'm disappointed with is that we don't get to play at least one more game with this group."
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 ...