Ringgold Tigers

Two defensive behemoths faced off at the famed Brickyard in Thomson on Friday night.

The visiting Ringgold Tigers entered the game allowing just 11.1 points per contest, while the host Bulldogs led the entire AAA classification with just 6.0 points allowed per game this season.

And it was every bit the defensive slobber-knocker it was touted to be.

Unfortunately for Tiger Nation, it also turned out to be the final game of the season as the fourth-ranked Bulldogs clamped down on the Ringgold offense in the second half and held on for a 14-7 victory that put them into the Elite Eight for the first time since 2017.

Thomson (11-0) will play that third-round game at home next Friday against Appling County (11-1), who took out Region 7 champion and previously undefeated Cherokee Bluff, 34-20, in Flowery Branch.

Meanwhile, Ringgold saw one of its best seasons in school history end with a 10-2 record.

After an exchange of punts to begin the night, Thomson was able to drive 55 yards in 10 plays, converting a pair of fourth downs - one by a Ringgold penalty - before quarterback Tay Martin delivered a nice play fake before hitting a wide open Jaden Moss for a 7-yard score. Connor Askew's extra point gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 3:16 left in the first quarter.

Another exchanges of punts would follow before the Tigers got the ball back at their own 30-yard line with 8:38 left before halftime and this time the Tigers showed their quick-strike capabilities.

Peyton Williams went for 12 yards on a catch from Mason Parker before ripping off a 16-yard run to the Bulldogs 42. On the very next play, Parker got the defense to bite on a nice fake before he found Williams wide open on a wheel route. The junior would take it the distance, completing the scoring strike, while Landon Eaker's kick tied things up.

Although Ringgold's next offensive possession resulted in a turnover on downs at the Bulldogs 38-yard line, the Tiger defense did its part to preserve the 7-7 tie. They forced a punt on Thomson's first possession after Williams' score and Jordan Garnica would collect his first interception of the year on a diving pick later in the half.

No points were scored in the third quarter as the physical battle continued. Marcus Fortson would come up with an interception for the Tigers with about five minutes left in the period, but the offense was unable to move the ball and a punt by Eaker was deflected, setting up the Bulldogs at midfield with 2:30 left in the third quarter.

On the second play of the drive, junior running back Jontavious Curry got free for a huge 41-yard gain before being ruled out of bounds at the Ringgold 3. However, two penalties moved the ball back to the 13 as they faced second-and-goal.

Martin broke off a 7-yard run on the next play before what appeared to be a toss sweep to Curry on third down. But as the defense converged, Curry pulled up and threw to a wide-open Ashton Perry in the end zone for a 6-yard score and Askew's kick put Thomson up by seven on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Ringgold's offense, however, already struggling to find yards against Thomson's defense in the third quarter, would have to play the rest of the game without Parker as the veteran signal-caller sustained an undisclosed injury earlier in the second half and was unable to return.

Freshman Garrett Edgar went under center for Ringgold's next possession after the Bulldogs' touchdown, but Thomson forced a three-and-out. However, Ringgold's defense answered the call as Brady Gray jarred the ball free after a catch by Perry and Fortson recovered at the Bulldogs 22-yard line with just over eight minutes remaining in the game.

Ringgold went to the wildcat formation with senior Kori Dumas taking the snaps. His first two carries netted 12 yards and gave the Tigers first-and-goal at the 10. But two plays later, the Bulldogs came up huge with an interception and the Thomson offense, following a penalty, took over at its own 26 with 6:08 left to play.

Ringgold never get the ball back.

The Bulldogs offense ultimately drove the ball to the Ringgold 3-yard line before taking a knee in the final minute to seal the victory. Ringgold had stopped Thomson short on a third down near midfield with approximately four minutes to go, but the Tigers were called for a penalty on the end of the play to give the Bulldogs a first down and keep the chains moving.

Thomson finished with 271 yards on 46 carries. Martin had 18 rushing attempts for 129 yards, while Curry ran 19 times for 127. Curry also completed 6 of 12 passes for 37 yards, including the two interceptions.

Ringgold was limited to 76 yards rushing on 23 carries and went 6 of 13 in the air for 80 yards, one touchdown and one pick. The Tigers managed 156 yards of offense, but were held to just 19 yards and only one first down over the final two quarters of play.

Dumas picked up 41 yards on 15 carries, while Parker had 22 yards on four rushes. Parker was 6 of 12 and accounted for all 80 yards in the air, 64 going to Williams. The Tigers were also without leading receiver Malachi Hill, who was unable to play after getting injured in last week's playoff victory over Hart County.

Brandon Orman recorded a sack for the Ringgold defense.

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


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