It was the second week of heartbreak for the win-hungry Tigers after losing to rival Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 21-17 a week earlier.
In both losses Ringgold was hampered by the inability to capitalize on scoring opportunities in the red zone.
Ringgold had the ball on the Dalton 1 Friday night with 31 seconds left in the game and trailing by a touchdown.
But a penalty moved the ball back to the Dalton 6 and time again expired on the Tigers hopes.
“We competed well against two good ball teams two weeks in a row and it hurts to lose, but our guys have just got to believe they can do it and that’s the bottom line,” Ringgold Coach Lamar Brown said. “Our team played with a lot of heart and I’m proud of the way they fought in the end, but we’ve just got to get the ball in the endzone.”
Trailing by 7, senior quarterback Tony Bellew led a come-from-behind, 65 yard Ringgold march ended a yard shy.
The 6-3, 185-pounder hooked up with Allen Donaldson on a 15-yard completion to the Catamounts 1.
Bellew attempted one final pass while under the pressure of a blitz to end the game.
“Our offensive line does a great job blocking and gives me a chance to read the field,” Bellew said. “Sometimes I’ve got to scramble to try to make things happen, but we just couldn’t make anything happen in the end. Dalton is a good team and tonight was a heartbreaking loss, but we’re not going to fold.”
Bellew had a big night running the ball against the stingy Dalton defense. He finished with 133 yards rushing on 22 carries.
He busted the game open early by scoring the first touchdown on a 3rd-and-7 play that turned into a 40-yard dash into the endzone with 11:44 to go in second period.
The Ringgold defense did a good job of holding Dalton’s senior star tailback Torey Love to 63 yards rushing on 13 attempts.
But on the Catamounts next possession, Love topped off a 6-play, 44-yard drive with a 15-yard scoring run with 8:57 left in the half.
Love also had two catches for 43 yards receiving.
“That guy has got a lot of speed,” Ringgold’s Donaldson said. “Our defense did a good job containing him. He got outside of us a couple of times and produced some big plays, but that’s expected when you’re as fast as he is.”
A penalty for roughing the punter kept a Dalton drive alive before the half and resulted in on a 14-7 Dalton lead.
The Catamounts Nick Finley followed the penalty with a 42-yard run to the Ringgold 6. Love then ran for three yards and 5-11, 170-pound David Win leaped over the line of scrimmage to score with 1:36 to go in the half.
Bellew answered back to tie the score with 7:41 to go in the third quarter. The signal-caller completed a 6-play, 63-yard drive by sprinting 11 yards for a TD.
Dalton quarterback Mitchell Boggs didn’t wait long to put his team back in the lead.
The senior guided the Catamounts to the deciding score in just 1:34.
On their next possession, Boggs threw for 33 yards and then kept the ball himself for the game-winning 11 yard scoring run with 6:07 left in the third period.
Boggs was 9-of-20 passing for 149 yards and rushed for 23 yards.
Ringgold running back Eric Mitchell said he was pleased with his team’s efforts, but was disappointed with the loss.
“I think that we played a solid game tonight,” Mitchell said. “We had some breaks that didn’t fall our way, but I think we’re going to be a better team coming out of this loss. We’re just going to work hard this week to prepare for Northwest.”
Ringgold, 2-2 in the region, and 3-2 overall, travels to Northwest Whitfield to take on the Bruins in another Region 7-AAAA battle.
“Two losses in two weeks is tough, but the good thing is this team has nowhere to go but up,” Ringgold sophomore Clarke Bethune said