Tigers even season mark; Wildcats fall to late score
The Adairsville Tigers held off a pesky Ringgold team 18-3 Friday night to finish their regular season at the .500 mark. Adairsville (5-5, 4-4) needed the win to stay alive in their hopes to reach the Class AAA state playoffs that begin November 15. Adairsville must now wait during a bye week to see how the GHSA’s Power Ratings pan out in Class AAA. The Tigers are in a tight race for the classification’s “At Large” berth with Cherokee Bluff. Although “unofficial” ratings are available on the GHSA website, appeals and verification of the final numbers will not be finalized until 4 p.m. on November 11. At the time of this report Saturday morning (with most Friday night results posted), Adairsville’s Power Rating is 10.20. Cherokee Bluff finished the regular season with a 3-7 record and has a current 9.38 rating. Southeast Bulloch (4-4) has a rating of 9.36. The “At Large” berth team will replace the No. 4-seed from Region 1-AAA which is paired this year against the No. 1-seed from Region 3-AAA. The teams vying for the Region 3-AAA top spot are Jenkins (8-1) and Benedictine (7-2). Those two teams square off next Friday night at Memorial Stadium in Savannah for the region title.
Ringgold used a halfback pass for a 64 yard play on their first possession to threaten early. After the drive stalled, the visiting Tigers’ missed a 36-yard field goal attempt by Landon Eaker. Later in the first quarter, Eaker would boot a 25-yard field goal to give Ringgold a 3-0 lead with 0:15 remaining in the period. The two teams exchanged possessions for much of the remainder of the first half, but an Adairsville 48-yard drive following a short punt gave the local Tigers a lead they would not relinquish. Conner Crunkelton connected with Jacob Ray on a 17-yard touchdown pass to cap the six-play drive with 3:54 left in the first half. Crunkelton then ran in a direct snap untouched for an 8-3 lead as Adairsville converted a two-point play out of the “swinging gate” extra point formation. Adairsville’s Tokyo Gordon recovered a fumble to set up another threat before the intermission.
An Adairsville drive was thwarted and the ball was turned over on downs at the one-yard line when Crunkelton was stopped by Ringgold linebacker Kyle White. That left the score 8-3 at the break. Following a scoreless third quarter, Adairsville kicker Emmanuel Lopez kicked a 27-yard field goal for an 11-3 lead. Although Lopez missed a 43-yarder with just over five minutes left in the game, the Adairsville defense kept Ringgold pinned deep in their own territory the rest of the way. A Lopez punt was downed at the Ringgold one-yard line with just over one minute remaining. A Ringgold fumble in the end zone was recovered by Adairsville's Garrett Ellis to seal the victory. The PAT made it an 18-3 final score and completed a night controlled by the Adairsville defense. Ringgold converted only one of two field goal attempts after early threatening drives. From that point forward, the local Tigers' defense basically shut down the visitors offense. Adairsville forced four turnovers and controlled the second half field position battle. The loss keeps Ringgold (0-9, 0-7) winless for the season. They close the season next week at Coahulla Creek. Meanwhile, Adairsville awaits the news regarding their formal post-season fate as the Power Ranking numbers accumulate.
EAST PAULDING 17, WOODLAND 14
The Woodland Wildcats lost their eighth straight Friday night, falling to the East Paulding Raiders in Dallas, 17-14.
Despite the low-scoring affair, both teams had opportunities to put up more points, but both had critical turnovers inside the 10-yard line. East Paulding's Jordan Harvey returned the opening kickoff 90 yards to take an early 7-0 lead. Then after a Woodland punt, East Paulding quickly moved the ball down the field. On a third and goal, Woodland’s Jayden Johnson picked off a tipped East Paulding pass and returned the interception 86 yards to the Raiders' 10-yard line.
Woodland ran four plays with the possession, but turned it over with an interception. East Paulding picked off a Woodland pass at the 9-yard line to stop the Wildcats’ threat.
The Woodland defense would make its mark on the contest once again, forcing a fumble and recovering at the East Paulding five-yard line. Eli Jernigan made the recovery to set up an Asa James touchdown run. James punched it in with a two-yard run but the Wildcats’ two-point conversion attempt out of the swinging gate formation failed to leave Woodland trailing, 7-6.
East Paulding connected on a second quarter field goal to take a 10-6 lead at the intermission.
Woodland started the second half with a long, sustained drive but James had the ball knocked loose inside the five-yard line. The Raiders recovered at their own two-yard line.
The Wildcats had another drive stall inside the red zone, but later grabbed their first lead of the night midway through the final quarter. Woodland's Jahseim Henry blocked an East Paulding punt and the Wildcats recovered at the Raiders’ three-yard line. Demarcus Williams reached the end zone on the first play from scrimmage and after the senior also ran in a two-point conversion, the Wildcats were up 14-10 with 6:44 remaining.
The East Paulding offense responded immediately, drove the length of the field, and regained the lead on the ensuing drive. Tyler Melson scored on a three-yard run with 4:25 left in the contest to give the Raiders a 17-14 lead. Woodland marched down the field late, but ran out of time and failed to convert a fourth down play with just seven seconds left.
Woodland (1-8, 0-7) will host Class AAAAA 10th-ranked Kell next Friday for a season finale’ 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
~~ Kevin Pate of WBHF contributed to this report.