That game will take place tonight at 7:30 p.m. as undefeated Cartersville welcomes Ringold to Weinman Stadium, and the winner will be crowned the champion of Region 5-AAA in 2013.
“It’s a big region game,” Cartersville head coach Frank Barden said of the game. “Obviously, there’s a lot of excitement because it’s for first place in the region.”
The Ringgold Tigers are currently 8-1 on the season and 6-0 in the region. Ringgold, like Cartersville, has been steamrolling through the region competition, and has been defeating the other six teams by an average of 32.5 points per game. Meanwhile, Cartersville has defeated region teams by an average of 45 points per game. Ringgold’s one loss came to Central, Carrollton by a score of 19-15 back on Sept. 13.
“They’re an awfully good football team. They’re very big. They have 18 starters, I think, that are back from last year, so they have a lot of experience,” Barden said. “They’re solid on both sides of the ball and very well-coached, so no question, they’re the best team we’ve played this year.”
Ringgold’s leader is senior quarterback and UGA baseball commit Slade Dale. Dale has 899 rushing yards so far this season on 126 carries for a 7.14 average per attempt. He also has 12 touchdown runs. Dale had not been quite as successful as a passer until last week against Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe. Dale threw for 276 yards and five touchdowns in the game. He has a 58 percent completion rate and has thrown for 1,122 yards on 116 attempts.
“The quarterback makes them go. He’s a good player,” Barden said of Dale. “They have two good running backs, [Kile Sholl] and [D.L. Goins]. They are undefeated in our region, so it’s going to be a heck of a ballgame.”
The quarterback and running back positions may be a strength of Ringgold, but it is also not likely an advantage for the Tigers. That is because the Canes boast a talented crop of skill position players as well.
Quarterback Brooks Barden is now up to 2,184 passing yards on the season on 192 attempts. He has thrown for over 300 yards each of the last two games. He also has 37 touchdown passes to lead the state of Georgia in all classifications. He has been distributing the ball to multiple receivers as T.L. Ford (553), Mark Quattlebaum (469), Gordon Gray (447), Trase Fezzia (282), Kalin Heath (224) and Terrius Callahan (113) all have over 100 yards receiving.
One advantage Ringgold may have is the edge in size.
“They have a big offensive line,” Barden said. “They’re going to line up and run the ball.”
However, Barden feels like his team is ready for the challenge in the trenches.
“I think our offensive line has gotten better as the year has gone on and that’s usually the case,” he said. “The good thing is it’s the 10th game. That has been the case with us, probably, every year the last 10, 15 years, that our line is the one that takes time. It takes a little bit of chemistry up there. So it’ll be good to see [Ringgold] the 10th game.”
Overall, tonight’s game will be the biggest test for a Cartersville team that’s closest margin of victory came in a 42-7 win over Cass. With the region title on the line tonight, for all intents and purposes, the Canes’ start the playoffs a week early.
“It’s getting close to the playoffs, so we have to come in and be ready to go at practice and make sure we’re ready to go mentally and physically,” Barden said. “I think our team has gotten better the past few weeks and it was a good game up there last year. It was 7-0 at halftime and we don’t expect anything different this year.”