As the new year rings in Catoosa County says goodbye to one of the year's most memorable years in sports.

From the tornado of April 27 to several sate championships, this has been one for the books.

Below are some of the top stories of 2011 in chronological order.

FEBRUARY: Heritage boys headed to state playoffs for first time in school history

The Heritage boys' basketball team is headed to the state playoffs for the first time in school history.

The Generals earned a berth following a 52-49 win over rival Ringgold on Thursday in the in the Region 7-AAA quarterfinals at Dalton High

School. The victory came a week following the Navy-and-Red's first win over the Tigers since the school's inaugural season.

Heritage head coach Kevin Terry said it's been "a long time coming" of qualify for the state.

"I'm proud of my guys," he said. "It's been a three year journey, but we're not done yet."

The win was also payback for the Generals, who were eliminated by Ringgold from the region tourney in 2010.

Terry said his team had to fight tooth and nail to get past the Tigers this time.

"Ringgold played a great game," he said. "They played their tales off.

We were up quiet a bit in the first and second quarter and they just kept on coming back."

The Generals, led by Jake Raines with 21 game points including two treys, jumped out to a 17-10 lead. Raines scored nine in the run with

one 3-pointer.

Heritage extended its lead to 30-20 at the end of the half with the help of six points from Riley Sparks and four from Cody Sherlin.

Ringgold outscored Heritage, 11-9 and 18-13 in the final two periods.

Nick Scott, who had to make two briefs exits from the game due to a cut on the top of his head, scored seven of his 15 game points in the final drive.

Riley Sparks and Hunter Cornelius scored eight points each.

Taylor Wilkey scored 13 points for Ringgold including three treys in the fourth quarter.

FEBRUARY: Reed wins state title for Heritage

The Heritage Generals have seen wrestlers win state gold in the first two years of the program’s existence, and things were no different in the third year.

Junior Landon Reed added to the Generals’ list of champions by winning the 125-pound title in Class AAA, his first-ever state prep title.

Reed opened the weekend by pinning Locust Grove’s Dillon Palmer in 1:46, then he pinned St. Pius’ Robbie Martin in 1:40 in the

quarterfinals.

He claimed a 5-3 semifinal win over Tim Reynolds of Columbus to earn a trip to Saturday night’s finals against Carrollton’s Rhett Hembree.

The two exchanged takedowns in the first period, but Reed scored a second takedown in the closing seconds to go ahead 4-3.

An escape 15 seconds into the second period, increased his lead to 5-3, and another takedown with 33 seconds left added two more points to his lead.

Hembree earned an early third-period escape, but Reed sealed the victory with a final takedown with 21 seconds left to win 9-4.

“It feels great, just amazing,” Reed said after the match. “After that last takedown, I looked up at the clock, and it was down to just 21 seconds. I had to ride him out, and I knew I could. I worked my butt off to get the win.”

Reed led a contingent of six Heritage wrestlers who placed.

Andy Bratton (171) took third, while Madison Martin (119), Cody Goins (130), Mike Shepard (135), and Cory Canada (16) each placed fifth.

The Generals amassed 108.5 points, finishing second to Gilmer’s 151.5.

It was the highest-ever finish for Heritage at the state traditional tournament.

The Generals will compete for the Class AAA state dual championship this coming weekend at Locust Grove High School. They will wrestle the host school in the first round.

Apart from Heritage, it was a tough weekend for Catoosa County wrestlers.

Hayden Nichols was the lone state-placer for Ringgold as he finished third at 119 pounds in Class AAA.

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, who qualified just two wrestlers for the Class AA tournament, was shut out of the medal rounds.

MAY: Struck but not struck out

Ringgold area residents and business owners were left with little to salvage following one of the many deadly storms that moved across the north Georgia area on Wednesday, April 27.

The Ringgold Tigers’ baseball team, a program that is rich in history and tradition, was no different.

The 2010 state runners-up were left homeless midway through the final week of the regular season.

Instead of preparing for the annual Senior Day that was scheduled for last week, the team again was stunned by tragedy.

The Tigers already were saddened by the death of former Ringgold head coach Bill Womack earlier in the season.

Ringgold will be allowed to finish the baseball season although the high school was destroyed by the tornado.

The damage to the buildings and campuses of Ringgold High and Ringgold Middle schools is too extensive for the students to return to classes there this school year.

Ringgold baseball coach Brent Tucker described his feelings concerning the devastation that the storms did to the area.

“It’s going to be awkward and different, but at least we’re going to get to play a little bit,” Tucker said. “In the scheme of things

baseball is really on the bottom of the priority list. But to 20 kids it’s their world and their priority.”

Tucker said the only thing that wasn’t destroyed at Bill Womack Field was the building that housed the Tigers uniforms.

“We were able to sneak in and get them,” he said. “They’re in the back of a pickup truck right now.”

Tucker said his heart ached for the families who have suffered the loss of life and/or property.

“We’re all ok,” he said. “We as a community will get through this...our prayers and thoughts are with everyone.”

Tucker said he and his family were at their home when the storm system passed through the Ringgold area. He said it was shortly thereafter that he did a headcount of his Tigers via text messaging that he learned one of his players lost his home.

“I saw the whole thing come through,” Tucker said. “I saw it (the storm) light up over the horizon and I knew it wasn’t good.”

Tucker said it was hard to describe walking through Ringgold and onto the school campus for the first time following the devastation.

“It’s emotional,” he said. “For us, we spend so much time up there...it'ws not your home, but it is kind of your home. It’s definitely something we didn’t take for granted, but the Ringgold campus always had people on it. There were always baseball players there.”

Tucker said his team held its first practice since the storm on Saturday, and will continue to prepare for the first round of the

Class AAA State Playoffs on Friday against Riverwood. The time is set for 3 p.m. at Heritage.

The Tigers will celebrate Senior Night that day.

“I really appreciate all of the calls and concern,” Tucker said. “I’ve had offers from the Georgia Dugout Club, from Columbus to the

mountains. People have offered everything from facilities to uniforms.”

Cartersville, who has defeated Ringgold twice this season, delivered $650 and two dozen balls to the Tigers on Friday.

MAY: Ringgold sweeps Riverwood in first round

Ringgold head baseball coach Brent Tucker said his Tigers “rose to the occasion” on Friday, May 6 at Heritage.

The Blue-and-White swept Riverwood 13-3 and 10-1 to advance to the second round of the Georgia Class AAA State Playoffs.

The victories came nine days after a deadly EF-4 tornado struck the Ringgold area and left the Tigers homeless.

“They were ready today,” Tucker said. “You could see it in their eyes...they’re going to rise up and be bigger, stronger and better

than ever.”

The Tigers will now play in a best-of-three series this week in Columbus, Ga.

Tucker said his kids are “confident” and ready to meet the challenge.

“There’s no situation, and no place that should intimidate or worry

these kids,” Tucker said. “They’ve lived through the most intimidating

thing they can live through. I don’t think we’re going to be worried wherever we play.”

Ringgold jumped out to 5-0 lead in the first inning with the help of cleanup hitter Caleb Jones. The senior, who the Tigers’ call Chief,

led the charge with a grand slam.

He finished the day with five hits, including a solo homer, and seven RBIs.

Ringgold head coach Brent Tucker said his catcher “met the challenge.”

“Caleb had a night,” Tucker said. “And he just kept hitting it hard.”

Adam Weldon, who finished the day 6-for-8 with three doubles and five runs scored, ripped a double and Corey Kafka added an RBI single in the first inning.

The Tigers got outstanding performances from Matthew Crownover, Colton Cross and Austin Parrish on the hill.

Crownover tossed a two-hitter in the first game and struck out eight batters.

Cross got the win in the second game. He struck out 10 batters and allowed three hits in six innings of work.

Parrish threw the final inning and struck out two batters.

Tucker said he couldn’t be more pleased with the team’s efforts.

“They were ready to play baseball today,” he said.

Weldon was on fire with three doubles in game one.

The Tigers added three more runs in the bottom of the second inning.

Cross laced a double, and scored on a double by Jones. Pinch-runner Mark Fairbanks stole third base and scored on a throwing error. Weldon added another double and scored on a triple off the bat of Reed Waldon.

Ringgold added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Jones drew a walk; Weldon hit a double and pinch runner Fairbanks scored on a passed ball. The 10th run of the game came on a fielders’ choice.

Riverwood cut the lead to 10-2 in the fifth inning. Crownover retired the first batter. The defense then committed two errors and leadoff batter Kyle Karruthers roped a two-run double to break up the no-hitter.

The visitors scored their final run of the game on a sacrifice fly by Nick Bias.

Ringgold scored the final two runs in the sixth inning on a solo homer by Jones and an RBI triple by Alan Mochabee.

In game two, Riverwood scored its only run in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI by pitcher Isaih Deon.

Ringgold responded with six runs on six hits in the third inning. A two-run triple by Reed Waldon, highlighted the rally.

The Tigers added three more runs in the fourth inning, highlighted by a solo homer by Crownover.

Ringgold added another run in the fifth inning on an RBI double by Jones.

LFO has been home to those left homeless from damages from the tornado.

“I’ve never experienced anything like that,” Windham said. “We’re going to do everything we can to support our neighbors in their time

of need.”

Akins said he has had calls from more than a dozen athletic programs offering to help.

MAY: Heritage makes Ringgold feel at home

When the Ringgold baseball team showed up for open practice at

Heritage on Thursday, May 5 the Tigers were surprised.

Coach Brent Tucker’s Ringgold squad was preparing for a Class AAA

first-round game with visiting Riverwood at Heritage.

The Tigers were welcomed with a Ringgold rug hanging on the outfield

fence and the team's "R" logo on the field behind home plate.

Ringgold found a temporary home at Heritage after an EF4 tornado

ripped through the area on April 27 and left the Tigers homeless.

Tucker said the plan to turn Heritage into the Tigers'

home-away-from-home with royal blue was orchestrated by Heritage head

coach Eric Beagles.

"We were very surprised," Tucker said. "Coach Beagles didn't want it,

but he got a big hug."

Beagles said everything has worked out great with Ringgold now

practicing and playing and the Tigers were very appreciative of the

Generals efforts.

"We've tried to anticipate their needs and accommodate them the best

we can," Beagles said. "Every one of their players said thank you or

that they appreciated what we were doing. It was genuine...it wasn't

a cookie cutter reply. Brent didn't tell them to say that, it's just

the kind of players they are."

AUGUST: Ringgold wins seventh consecutive Catoosa Cup

The 27th annual Battle of the Catoosa Cup went to Ringgold for the

seventh consecutive year.

The Tigers defeated Lakeview-Fort Ogletorpe 34-10 before a good crowd

at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga.

Ringgold will play all of its home games at the stadium in 2011 after

a F-4 tornado destroyed the school's athletic facilities on April 27.

The victory was the 250th for Ringgold coach Robert Akins.

"This is for Ringgold," Akins said. "I know we were really nervous

coming into this game. We were just excited to be on the field and

beat a good quality football team. They had some really good players

and they gave us a lot of problems in a lot of areas."

The Tigers took advantage of six LFO turnovers to keep their win

streak over their rivals in tact.

Ringgold scored a touchdown in the first quarter and two in the second

to take a 21-0 halftime lead.

The Tigers scored their first touchdown on a 2-yard run Mark Fairbanks

following a 9-play, 37-yard drive that was set up by a Warriors

fumble.

Adam Ray kicked the extra point for Ringgold.

LFO fumbled two plays into its first drive of the second quarter when

Daniel Deocampo's pitch was recovered by Desmond Harris on the

Warriors' 19 at the 11:07 mark.

The Tigers, who haven't lost a game to LFO since its 42-0 thumping in

2004, scored three plays later on a 10 yard pitch to Fairbanks. Ray

kicked the extra point.

LFO drove to the Ringgold 4 on its following possession. However, the

drive was stopped short of a touchdown when Trey Silmon threw an

interception in the endzone to Hackett with 3:57 to play in the half.

Ringgold scored it's final touchdown of the half with :05 to play on a

9-yard pass to Hackett. The drive was 80 yards on 12-plays and was

highlighted by a 20-yard run by Shawn Anderson.

The Tigers, who forced LFO's fourth turnover of the night midway through the third quarter, extended their lead to 28-0 following a sweep by sophomore quarterback Slade Dale.

LFO finally got on board following a 28-yard field goal by Silmon at the 11:12 mark.

The Warriors scored their first touchdown of the night when Daniel Deocampon connected with Randall Eaker from 12-yards out on fourth

down with 7:23 to play. Silmon kicked the extra point.

Ringgold scored its final points after LFO committed its sixth turnover late in the fourth quarter. Anderson broke loose on a 48-yard scamper with :35 to play.

Akins returned to Ringgold to coach his Tigers after spending the week in Mississippi following the death of his sister.

The veteran coach said she motivated him because she had suffered a lot of pain.

In other Catoosa action, Heritage won its season opener against visiting North Murray, 34-0.

The Generals rolled up 263 total yards, including 86 yards passing from Jake Sampson and two touchdowns of 5 and 30 yards.

The Navy-and-Red held North Murray to 111 total yards.

Ethan Thompson was the Generals leading rusher with 111 yards on eight carries. He also had an 8-yard touchdown.

Brandon Giacone had 66 yards on seven carries including a 10-yard touchdown run.

Cadarious Harrison also had a 17-yard touchdown run.

Cody Sherlin also caught a touchdown pass of 30 yards.

The Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe Warriors finally have something to celebrate.

The 2011 Homecoming turned out to be a reason for a grand celebration for the LFO football team.

The Red-and-White, which had lost 15 consecutive games, defeated North Murray 35-28 in double overtime on Friday at Tommy Cash Stadium.

SEPTEMBER: LFO raises flag

American Idol runner-up Lauren Alaina made a special guest appearance in her cheerleading uniform and Brittany Lowery was crowned

the queen.

In addition, junior class representative and softball player Megan Smith and football player Josh Gibson got engaged during the pregame ceremonies.

LFO's Bubba Cruz emerged as the star of the night with more than 200 yards rushing.

The victory that broke the Warriors 15-game losing streak prompted the players to grab the school flag from the trunk and hoisted up the school's flag pole.

It was LFO's first time to raise the flag in victory since Nov. 6 2009 when the Warriors defeated Cartersville.

LFO earned the win when North Murray fumbled on the 1 in the second overtime.

North Murray's Dallas Bowers returned the opening kickoff 45 yards for a touchdown and Tino Hernandez kicked the extra point to give the visitors a quick 7-0 lead.

The Warriors responded with a five-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 2 yard run by Cruz.

The Warriors running back had a 49- yard run in the scoring march.

North Murray scored on its following possession when Brady Swilling connected with Jackie Abernathy on a 23-yard scoring pass.

The Warriors then tied the game on the following possession when Levi Scudgins went to the air for a 67-yard pass to Josh McNabb with 3:13 to play in the first quarter. The extra point made the score 14-14 at

the end of the first quarter.

LFO took the lead 21-14 with 16 seconds left in the first half on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Daniel DeoCampo to Randall Eaker. North

Murray threatened to spoil the Warriors’ Homecoming when Jackie scored with 5:18 remaining in the game from 7 yards out.

LFO attempted a field goal from 33 yards out before the end of regulation, but the kick was no good.

In overtime, Swilling scored from 15 yards out for North Murray.

Deocampo then threw a 14-yard pass to Eaker to keep the Warriors in the game.

The quarterback scored LFO’s last touchdown of the night from the 1 in the second overtime.

The LFO defense held North Murray on the second and third down from the 1 before causing a fumble on the fourth down to win the game.

OCTOBER: Ringgold comeback tops Heritage

The fourth edition battle between the Ringgold Tigers and Heritage Generals Friday turned into a no time limit brawl for it all.

No, it wasn’t a night of live wrestling.

It was arguably one of the best football games to ever be played in Catoosa County with Ringgold defeating previously undefeated Heritage 20-19 in overtime on Jeff Sims Field.

The Tigers came back from a 13-3 deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime where they grabbed the victory.

“Give Heritage credit, they’re a great team,” Akins said. “Our kids fought hard and they didn’t give up. They showed the resiliency

tonight that they’ve shown all throughout the tornado (April 27) and when we were traveling (to practice or play). I was very proud of

them.”

The Tigers spoiled the Generals Homecoming with a 15-yard run by Ringgold senior Shaun Anderson and an extra point kick from Adam Ray.

Heritage had scored on its overtime possession on a pass from quarterback Jake Sampson to Cody Sherlin.

Ringgold senior Shaun Anderson then dashed 15 yards for a touchdown and Adam Ray booted the winning point through the uprights.

While trying to fight off hiccups from the bucket of ice water his team dumped over his head in celebration, Coach Akins said he knew

overtime would be tough, but he had faith in his players.

“(Heritage quarterback Jake) Sampson is a great player and we knew it

would be hard to keep him and (Ethan) Thompson out of the end zone,” Akins said. “But our kids just stepped up and made some things happen.”

Ray and Anderson had helped lead the Ringgold comeback.

Trailing by 10 with less than 8:00 left on the scoreboard clock, The Tigers then drove 80 yards in eight plays to set up Anderson’s

2-yard touchdown run and Ray’s point after that cut the Heritage lead to 13-10.

Ray then stood on the field with an overflow crowd estimated at more than 5,000 watching and kicked a 30-yard field goal at the end of

regulation to send the game into OT.

“This is a great feeling,” Ray said. “We didn’t execute like we thought we would, but we were able to pull it though in the end. This was a total team effort and I’m so proud of everyone.”

Anderson, who finished the game with 147 yards on 21 carries, said there were “no words to describe the feeling” of scoring the final touchdown.

“You always have to keep a positive attitude,” he said. “We didn’t try to down play Heritage at all…but we thought we would win this.”

Ringgold (4-1) took a 3-0 lead with 3:08 to play in the second quarter

following a 34 yard field goal by Ray.

The Generals marched 77 yards in five plays in the second half to score their first touchdown on a 4-yard run of Caleb Dietz.

The drive was highlighted by a 42-yard dash by Thompson. Dietz reached the end zone again on a 15-yard run shortly following a fumble by

Anderson. The two-point conversion play failed.

Thompson led the Generals with 84 yards on 14 carries and Sampson had 12 carries for 79 yards.

Ringgold quarterback Slade Dale was 11-for-17 for 98 yards passing.

The Tigers sophomore added 76 yards rushing on 14 attempts and Mark Fairbanks added 58 yards on 12 carries.

Wright Hackett was the go to receiver for Dale on the final drive that set up the game-tying field goal. Hackett had four receptions for 39 yards.

NOVEMBER: Lady Genearls win state cross country championship

The Heritage girls cross country team has climbed to the top of the mountain.

The Lady Generals won the Georgia Class AAA State Championship on -ever team state title.

The win came just one week after finishing second in the Region 7-AAA race at Allatoona on Oct. 27.

Allatoona entered the state competition as the favorite to win the state title, according to Heritage head coach Jeremy Wynne.

He said he couldn’t be more proud of his squad for their determination and hard work this season.

“Heritage wasn't thought to be a serious threat for the title,” he said. “In fact, Heritage hasn't won a state championship in the history of the school (in any sport), and no school in the county has won a state title since 2006 when Coach Ernie Ellis did so while at LFO (in cross country).”

Wynne said their team goal was to place in the top four and earn a spot on the podium at the state meet.

“As the season progressed, I started to see evidence that we were good enough to do so,” he said. “By region, I knew that our girls had what it took to win it all. The trick was to convince them to believe in their own ability and to push through the mountain of doubt that had hindered the team all season. “

Region 7-AAA champion, Natalie Espinoza-Henley finished ninth overall for Heritage. Mallory Edwards was 15th, Caitlin Craft 19th, Brandi Thompson, 24th; Moriah Edwards, 49th; Emily Poole, 67th; and Jazmin Sanchez, 145th.

Jacklyn Elam served as the Generals alternate.

Wynne said “every girl ran with heart ran with her heart, made every step count, and left nothing on the course.”

“They targeted Allatoona and St. Pius runners and systematically passed them,” he said. “ The hill workouts that were a part of our

weekly practice schedule really paid off. The state course has several steep grades that seemed to take a greater toll on the competition.

Our girls powered up and over each hill and passed competitors as they did so. When the race was over, we knew that we had done well.”

St. Pius X finished second in the competition followed by Allatoona.

OCTOBER: Ringgold finishes 3rd in AAA state

The Ringgold softball team finished third in the GHSA Class AAA State Tournament on Saturday in Columbus.

The Tigers had two leads in their final game. However, Abi Leroy hit a two-run homer to give West Laurens (35-7-1) a 5-4 victory and a spot in the championship finals with Oconee County.

Hodge said she was proud of her team for their effort in Columbus.

“These kids fought and they take pride in Ringgold softball,” she said. “We had a great tournament. You always feel like you could have done more, but you can’t change anything.”

Hodge said she couldn’t say enough about her five seniors, Erika Burkhart, Adrian Thornton, Savannah Bailey, Hayley Robinson and Kensey Sholl.

She said they have “amazing talent and they’ve shown the younger kids how to play the game.”

“I’m just so, so proud of them,” she said of her team. “They’ve worked so hard all year.”

Erikca Bynum had three of Ringgold’s six hits and three RBIs. That effort included an RBI triple in the fifth inning that put the

Blue-and-White ahead, 4-3.

Erika Burkhart and Savannah Bailey scored two runs each for Ringgold against West Laurens.

Ringgold finished the season with a 26-14 record.

OCTOBER: Ringgold lady spikers end season in second round of state The Ringgold volleyball team ended its season in the second round of

the Georgia Class AAA State Playoffs on Tuesday, Oct. 18.

Head coach John Gaston’s Tigers lost to Columbus (25-10, 25-13, 25-10)to finish the season 22-18 overall.

The Blue-and-White advanced to the second round after defeating Cartersville in the first round.

Gaston said he his team was over matched player-for-player.

“It’s very difficult for us to match up with a team that has the size

of Columbus’,“ he said. “We just tried to hit the ball as much as we could to disrupt their offense and dig the ball as much as we could.

But Columbus is just an excellent team.”

Khadijah Wiley, a 6-foot-1 middle hitter who has committed to East Tennessee State, led the Blue Devils with 14 kills.

Gaston recently said he was most proud of his team for their hard work

after losing the core of the 2010 region champions.

Gaston said his girls have “worked hard to overcome their obstacles

and are playing as a team.”

“When you lose you’re strongest and most experienced players everything

basically gets turned around,” he said.

Gaston said the key to winning this year has been teamwork.

He said he is most thankful for the leadership the seniors provided.

That includes team leaders Anna Dykes, Kelly Jones, Jazzie Hill and Kaycee Craig. The remaining team members are juniors Heather Martin, Rachel McGill, Cadie Adams, Savannah Rowe and sophomores Leslie

Hargrove and Kelsey Jenkins.

NOVEMBER: Lady Generals take state championship in cross country

The Heritage girls cross country team has climbed to the top of the mountain.

The Lady Generals won the Georgia Class AAA State Championship on -ever team state title.

The win came just one week after finishing second in the Region 7-AAA race at Allatoona on Oct. 27.

Allatoona entered the state competition as the favorite to win the state title, according to Heritage head coach Jeremy Wynne.

He said he couldn’t be more proud of his squad for their determination and hard work this season.

“Heritage wasn't thought to be a serious threat for the title,” he said. “In fact, Heritage hasn't won a state championship in the history of the school (in any sport), and no school in the county has won a state title since 2006 when Coach Ernie Ellis did so while at LFO (in cross country).”

Wynne said their team goal was to place in the top four and earn a spot on the podium at the state meet.

“As the season progressed, I started to see evidence that we were good enough to do so,” he said. “By region, I knew that our girls had what it took to win it all. The trick was to convince them to believe in their own ability and to push through the mountain of doubt that had hindered the team all season. “

Region 7-AAA champion, Natalie Espinoza-Henley finished ninth overall

for Heritage. Mallory Edwards was 15th, Caitlin Craft 19th, Brandi Thompson, 24th; Moriah Edwards, 49th; Emily Poole, 67th; and Jazmin Sanchez, 145th.

Jacklyn Elam served as the Generals alternate.

Wynne said “every girl ran with heart ran with her heart, made every step count, and left nothing on the course.”

“They targeted Allatoona and St. Pius runners and systematically passed them,” he said. “ The hill workouts that were a part of our

weekly practice schedule really paid off. The state course has several steep grades that seemed to take a greater toll on the competition.

Our girls powered up and over each hill and passed competitors as they did so. When the race was over, we knew that we had done well.”

St. Pius X finished second in the competition followed by Allatoona.

NOVEMBER: Tigers anxious to prowl on new turf

Christmas can’t come soon enough at Ringgold High.

The Ringgold Tigers family is anxiously awaiting the completion of the

new turf on the football field.

Catoosa County school board members recently unanimously voted to extend a $250,000 loan to Ringgold High, allowing the school to

purchase a new synthetic turf playing surface on the Don Patterson football field.

According to superintendent of schools Denia Reese, the old field was declared, “condemned for use” following the April tornado.

Ringgold head coach Robert Akins said the new addition would be an assets to everyone, including the high school, middle school and youth recreation programs.

“We had been thinking about it for a long time but just couldn’t afford it,” he said. “With the devastation of the tornado it opened up a lot doors for us to at least proceed with bids, construction, the sod and turf.”

The Tigers got a feel of what their new home will be like this fall after playing their 2011 football season at Finley Stadium in

Chattanooga.

Akins said it was another revelation of how beneficial turf would be.

"I think the experience we had playing on turf this year (at Finley Stadium) and realizing the low maintenance of playing on turf played a great part in this,” Akins said. “I think in the long run it will be a

facility the whole community can take advantage of. I want to open it up to our whole community.”

Akins said he was also pleased that Shaw Industries in Dalton got the bid on the turf.

“They have a strong presence in Ringgold,” he said. “I’m glad someone local was able to do it.”

The surface of the turf will resemble the new gym floors in the newly refurbished school, having a centered old English “R” and the words “Ringgold” across one end zone and “Tigers” across the other end zone.

Ringgold High principal Sharon Vaughn said the synthetic surface would be more cost-effective long-term, prevent injuries, and be an asset for the community.

Vaughn said that by the end of the year, after insurance compensation and donations, she doesn’t anticipate having to spend any more money on equipment or uniforms for any of the teams for quite some time.

In addition, the board had approved $200,000 for yearly maintenance that will now not be necessary.

“Now that the tornado has destroyed the field,” Vaughn said, “my request is that we bring it up to 21st-century standards and look at the idea of having something absolutely durable, wonderful, and useful

for the community that we can take pride in, and also I believe save some money in the long-run,” Akins said the turf would be ready for use in March for spring sports, including soccer and spring football.