DALTON, Ga. — All is well with the Dalton Catamounts. Kelvis Rhodes made sure of that Friday night.
Making his first appearance of the season after sitting out the first two games -- both losses -- with a shoulder injury, the junior tailback rushed for 164 yards and four touchdowns as the Catamounts earned a resounding 31-0 win over previously unbeaten Gilmer County. Dalton coach Matt Land saw an immediate dividend in having his 1,500-yard rusher back.
"Kelvis is a great player, but it's also his effect on his teammates that makes a difference," Land said of Rhodes, who scored on runs of 3, 48, 9 and 22 yards. "His teammates look at him and how hard he plays, and it rubs off. I was proud of him for getting in there. He's not 100 percent yet, but he will be in a couple of weeks.
"It's amazing what a guy like Kelvis will do for a team -- and he can make a coach look a lot smarter."
If Rhodes was the headliner, then the Dalton defense was a strong supporting act. Facing a Bobcats team averaging more than 350 yards rushing, Dalton forced three turnovers and kept hard-running Tyler Bertolini in check. Gilmer's deepest penetration was the Dalton 46.
"Gilmer is always one of the most physical teams we play, and they pride themselves on being as tough as anybody they play," Land said. "We also pride ourselves for being tough, and we showed it tonight. Our kids wanted to show they could play with anybody they face, and I'm really proud of them."
Dalton wasted little time showing that toughness, marching 73 yards on 14 plays on the game's opening possession, with Rhodes capping the drive from 3 yards out. The Cats took a 10-0 lead earlyin the second quarter when Kiko Rodriguez kicked a 37-yard field goal to end another long drive that ate up five minutes and featured a 27-yard Rhodes gain.
Gilmer had its best drive to start the second half, using the bruising Bertolini and backfield mate Johnie Flakes to get to Dalton territory. However, Bertolini had the ball poked out from behind, with Dalton's Nathan Bryant recovering. Three plays later Rhodes broke off his 48-yard touchdown around left end for a 17-0 lead.
The Bobcats, who were hindered all game by untimely penalties (10 for 117 yards), never regrouped.
"It felt really good to get back out there," said Rhodes, who came out after his 22-yard scoring run early in the final quarter. "I felt confident in what I was doing, and the team played well in front of me. We just executed. Before the game we said we knew what we had to do, and we came out and executed it."
Jordan McKinney, Jordan Keener, Eder Mora and Bryant -- who added a late interception to his fumble recovery -- had big nights defensively for Dalton. Bertolini topped Gilmer with 96 hard-earned yards on 17 carries.
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 ...