Sometimes it takes until the end of the season for a team’s signature moment to emerge in hindsight. Then again, there are a few instances when a turning point or defining sequence occurs and is instantly earmarked.
On rare occasions, these memorable plays almost can be spoken into existence.
That seemed to happen last Friday, when Adairsville’s offense took the field 90 yards from the end zone. In the grand scheme of things, the series wouldn’t have seemed particularly consequential. At the time, the Tigers held a 36-14 lead early in the fourth quarter. It would have taken a Herculean effort for LaFayette to rally for a victory.
And yet, Adairsville head coach Eric Bishop believed that a touchdown drive would speak volumes to his team’s growth — not just during the season but also throughout the game, itself, as the Tigers turned a 14-14 halftime score into a comfortable advantage.
Nearly five minutes of game time after taking over possession, Adairsville senior Ja’Maury Johnson punched the ball over the goal line to cap a 13-play drive.
“I think our kids grew up a great deal that second half at LaFayette,” Bishop said Thursday. “We did some really good things and played to the potential that we had been expecting, up until this point.”
Bishop feels as though that series is the best thing the Tigers (3-1, 2-0 Region 6-AAA) have done this season. He fully expects his team to start this week’s game at Ringgold the same way they finished last Friday’s victory.
“We talked last week about winning that game and building some momentum,” Bishop said. “We’ve talked this week about continuing that momentum, keeping the streak alive and continuing to gain energy from that.”
It won’t be easy in the battle of Tigers.
Ringgold labored through a winless 2019 campaign, due in late part to a significant number of injuries. The Catoosa-based Tigers are off to a 3-2 start this season, including a 2-1 mark in region play.
Despite having played half of their games, Ringgold has so many playmakers and such a wide variety of defensive schemes that Bishop isn’t quite sure what to expect this week.
“It depends on what game film you look at who you feel like their go-to guys are,” Bishop said. “They don’t really have a guy that they’re just going to continually hand the ball to or continually throw the ball to. The quarterback is a dual-threat quarterback who can run and extend plays.
“It’s really like they just have a game plan for that week offensively, and you just see so many kids — kind of like us — touching the football. You can’t really get a beat on them offensively of what they’re going to hang their hat on.”
At least a couple of times this season, including last week in a 34-14 win against Murray County, running back Kori Dumas proved to be the offensive catalyst. According to the Walker County Messenger, Dumas scored five touchdowns against Ridgeland and added four against Murray County, pushing him to 15 total on the season.
If Ringgold is able to establish Dumas early, the home team could make life difficult for Adairsville.
The two programs have met 10 times — all since 2008 — and despite holding a 6-4 edge in those meetings, Adairsville has only won once at Ringgold. That victory — a 41-17 rout — came in 2015, when the local Tigers reached the Class 3A state quarterfinals.
A similar result this week might not necessarily be a harbinger for such a successful postseason run, but it would certainly put Adairsville in prime position to return to the playoffs for the second straight year.
“Ringgold is always a tough place to play,” Bishop said. “It’s a great high school football environment. [The stands] are packed tightly up against the field. It’s a tough place to play, year in and year out.”
None of the current Adairsville seniors have won at Ringgold, with Bishop and Co. dropping games there in 2017 and 2018. That latter defeat, a 31-10 loss, kept Adairsville from making the playoffs that year.
The holdovers from that game will look to banish those bad memories this time around and replace them with a few good ones that just might push them forward into next week.
“These seniors have paved the way for a lot of different things,” Bishop said. “This group has a level of buy-in that we haven’t seen here in a long, long time. We’re excited about the challenge. It’s going to be fun.”