LaFayette Ramblers

It had been nearly a decade since the last time Ringgold and LaFayette had faced each other in a regular season football game and for the fans in attendance at Jack King Stadium on Friday night, the 53rd all-time meeting between the Tigers and Ramblers was more than worth the wait.

Ringgold rallied from deficits of 14-0 and 26-14 to go ahead by three with 3:29 to play. But LaFayette used a four-play, 75-yard drive in less than 90 seconds to regain the lead before stopping the Tigers one final time to pick up a thrilling 33-29 Homecoming win over Ringgold in the first meeting between the longtime rivals since 2011.

The Ramblers dominated the first quarter, outgaining the Tigers in total yardage, 142-9, to build a 14-0 lead. Jamario Clements capped a 13-play, 65-yard opening march with a 2-yard TD run and his second 2-yard TD run of the game with 1:40 left in the opening stanza paid off a 10-play, 74-yard drive, which was kept alive by a big fourth-down catch by Jacob Zwiger at the Ringgold 27.

The Tigers didn't pick up their initial first down of the night until less than seven minutes remained in the half, but they would land a body blow with 6:25 left before halftime as quarterback Mason Parker found a crease near the Ringgold sideline and sprinted 40 yards to cut the lead to 14-7.

However, LaFayette would use their third lengthy drive of the half to add to its lead before the first-half horn. They went 67 yards in 16 plays, taking nearly six minutes off the clock. A big third-down catch by Zwiger and a huge 17-yard fourth-down grab by Trey Taylor would eventually set up Clements for his third score of the night, this time from a yard out, with just 27 seconds left in the half.

A missed extra point would give the Ramblers a 20-7 lead and defensive back Jalen Suttle preserved the score by picking off a pass at the LaFayette 2-yard line just before intermission.

The second half began with punts by both teams, but Ringgold would put together a nice 59-yard drive to get back on the board. Jacob Garnica's 25-yard catch on third down kept the chains moving and Kori Dumas would get the ball in the endzone with 3:35 left as Landon Eaker's second PAT of the game pulled the Tigers to within six points of the lead, 20-14.

Once again, however, LaFayette answered. A 30-yard kickoff return by Suttle and a 17-yard keeper by quarterback Jaylon Ramsey moved the ball to midfield and another big 10-yard catch by Taylor on third down was followed by an athletic 31-yard scamper by Ramsey. One play later, Clements bulled his way into the endzone from a yard out to make it 26-14 with 1:03 left in the third after a failed 2-point conversion pass.

Needing a big play fast, Ringgold got one as Dumas took a swing pass from Parker on the Tigers' very next play from scrimmage. The junior got past the first wave of LaFayette defenders before cutting back to the middle of the field and outracing the Ramblers for a 53-yard score.

Eaker's kick brought the Tigers back to within five at 26-21 and, after forcing a punt, the Blue-and-White regained possession at their own 13-yard line with 10:29 left in the ball game..

What followed next was a methodical, clock-consuming, 16-play, 87-yard drive that took exactly seven minutes off the board. LaFayette was hit with two costly pass interference calls on the drive, once on third-and-nine and once on fourth-and-seven, to keep the drive alive.

The final snap came on fourth-and-one with 3:29 remaining as Price Pennington found paydirt from four yards out and a conversion catch by Garnica finally gave the Tigers' their first lead of the night.

But their lead would be short-lived as the Ramblers responded by showing off their own quick-strikes capabilities.

With LaFayette backed up at its own 25-yard line following a penalty on the kick return, Ramsey clicked off back-to-back runs of 8 and 13 yards before Taylor got behind the Ringgold defense to haul in a 37-yard completion down the Tigers' 17. One play later, Ramsey split the defense with a run up the middle that ended with him celebrating in the endzone before Jacob Brown split the uprights with the PAT.

The Tigers would get one final shot to win the game with 1:57 to go and a catch by Jordan Wideman moved the ball out to the Ringgold 34. But, following an long incomplete pass attempt down field, Brent Minor came across the line on a safety blitz and sacked Parker for a 10-yard loss on third down.

Facing fourth-and-16 with just over a minute to play, Parker sent a long pass spiraling toward midfield. But Suttle went up and was able to knock it out of the reach of its intended receiver and LaFayette was able to run the final 1:09 off the clock to seal the important Region 6-AAA victory.

Ramsey carried 22 times for 168 of LaFayette's 292 yards on the ground, while Clements added 93 yards on 21 carries, all but two coming in the first half. Taylor had 29 yards on seven rushes and a team-high 64 yards on three catches. Ramsey finished 9 of 17 through the air for 134 yards, while Junior Barber added 41 yards on three grabs.

Ringgold ended the night with 185 yards rushing as Dumas set the pace with 89 yards on 18 carries. Parker picked up 76 yards on 12 attempts and completed 9 of 18 passes for 131 yards to six different receivers. Dumas led the way with 53 yards on his one catch.

LaFayette (3-3, 3-1) will play at Coahulla Creek next Friday night, while Ringgold's next opponent will also be the Colts, though the game won't be played until Saturday, Nov. 7 at 12 noon at Don Patterson Field.

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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