As a result, tonight’s matchup between the home team Tigers of Ringgold and the Tigers of Adairsville may determine who will have the second best record, behind Cartersville, in Region 5-AAA at the end of the season.
“You’re next game is always your biggest game,” Adairsville head coach Eric Bishop said. “But to point a finger at why this is a big game, first, because they are a team in our region who was a playoff opponent last year and they return just about everybody, except for two or three starters from last years team.”
The most dangerous returning starter for Ringgold is the quarterback, Slade Dale. In July, Dale committed to the University of Georgia to play baseball for the Bulldogs. The senior is a talented quarterback as well, giving Bishop plenty to think about this past week.
“The No. 1 thing you look at is Slade Dale. He’s an exceptional athlete. He’s a hard-nosed tough kid that I think, by our count, carried the ball 32 or 35 times against Dalton,” Bishop said. “I’ve been asked all week, ‘You going to do anything special against their quarterback?’ We might, but we’re not going to do it all nightlong. In different down and distances, we might. In certain situations on the field, we may take some risk. But really, we’re going to do what we do and we feel that, if we are successful in what we do and play up to our potential, then we’ll be in a position to win the game.
“Obviously, you have to look at that for one of the factors this week.”
Dale is one of four factors his team will have to contend with tonight at Ringold.
“The second thing is, you have to look at the size of their offensive and defensive linemen,” Bishop said. “They are as big or bigger than the Cass team that we played earlier this year.”
Cass was able to open up holes in the running game that first game because of its size. Bishop believes his team may have an advantage to counter Ringgold’s size advantage.
“They play a lot of guys both ways and we hope that our depth and preparation has prepared us to win that battle,” he said. “I feel like the conditioning we have done in practice has prepared us to the point where that can be an advantage [tonight].”
In any game between two teams who are as evenly matched as Adairsville and Ringgold, the contest often comes down to the third and oft-forgotten phase of football, special teams.
“The third factor is, we really feel like we have to win the kicking game,” Bishop said. “The kicking game will be important. We have a good punter that really nobody has seen in two games because we haven’t had to punt the ball. We have to win the punt/punt return and kickoff/kickoff return game and then also win field goals and PATs. That’ll be important as the third thing we need to do.”
The fourth aspect of the game Bishop believes his team will have to overcome in order to come out with a win is Ringgold’s homefield advantage. A season ago, Adairsville beat Ringgold in a close, 40-38 game at Adairsville High. The tables are turned this time around.
“The fourth thing, we need to go into their environment. I told the kids earlier that we’re down on the scoreboard as soon as we walk into the game. They got the 12th man in the stands for them and it’ll be important for us to set the tone and keep the pressure on Ringgold for 48 minutes,” Bishop said. “We played them at home during Alumni Night last year. Their comfort level will be a whole lot higher than that when the game kicks off, but hopefully we can settle into what we do.”
If the Tigers can get through this test, they will be 4-1 and 2-0 in the region with an excellent chance to make a playoff push.
“We used the Pepperell game as an indicator of where we were at that point and this is the next big test for us,” Bishop said. “We’re not straying from what we do, offensively or defensively, that much. I told the kids, we want to really take the approach that we want to keep the game close and win it late. That’s been our approach all week.”