With 17 wins between them in the regular season, Dalton and Northwest Whitfield accomplished quite a bit on the football field this year.

That may not be easy for the players or coaches to see right now, though, days after both teams made early exits from the Class 4A playoffs. Dalton lost 31-14 to St. Pius X at Harmon Field, while Northwest fell 20-0 at Mays.

Maybe they’ll have a chance to think about what went right this season soon enough, though. For now, we offer a look at what went right — and wrong — in the finales for the Catamounts and Bruins.

Here’s the playoffs edition of Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down.



n Catching the Fish. Dalton’s defense had major trouble with St. Pius X running backs Jonathan Davis and Wil Asip, but they showed some strength in limiting senior fullback Tyler Fish to 36 yards on 16 carries.

Fish had pounded several teams for big games this season, so he was a threat Dalton had to respect in the middle — which certainly helped Davis and Asip — and he did pick up a quarter of the Golden Lions’ 16 first downs. But the Cats allowed him just two carries of 5 yards or more and no touchdowns.

n Second-half success. Dalton coach Ronnie McClurg said the only major adjustment made at halftime was in “attitude.” And the Cats did show a greater sense of urgency and a lot more spark after a flat opening half.

The Cats stopped St. Pius X on its first drive of the third quarter, then scored on their next possession. After the Golden Lions had scored on three of four possessions in the first half, the Cats forced them to work a bit harder for their second-half points and trimmed the lead to 10 by the end of the third.


n Flat Cats. In the second quarter, Dalton didn’t look at all like the team that won nine games this year as St. Pius X erupted for 21 points. The Cats suffered a bad spell a couple weeks prior at Gordon Central, but this was worse.

On defense, they allowed quarterback Dylan Knight time to operate, missed tackles, allowed six plays of 10 or more yards — including two passes of 34 yards, one of them a score, and a 68-yard touchdown run by Asip — and let the Golden Lions convert on four third downs.

On five offensive possessions for the Cats, three ended with punts from their own territory, while one ended with an interception of Harrison Scott in St. Pius X territory and the other finished with a missed 47-yard field goal.

The Cats made some big plays, with four covering 10 or more yards and all of them involving Scott, but the timing was never quite right and the gains too far apart as Dalton picked up only five first downs to 10 for St. Pius X in the half.

Northwest Whitfield


n Bright spots. Down 13-0, the Bruins showed grit by marching to the Mays’ 3 early in the fourth quarter, but the drive ended with an interception.

When Northwest needed a break on the Raiders’ next possession, junior safety Nate Woodason caused a fumble, although Mays running back Desmond Walker recovered the ball near midfield.

The Bruins knew they had to keep the game a low-scoring contest. Mays led 7-0 at halftime and it was 13-0 after three quarters, so that part of the game plan worked for 40 minutes.

And the Bruins’ line protected quarterback Drew Carter pretty well and tenaciously battled Mays’ outstanding defensive line, which has caused offenses headaches all season.


n Drive stoppers. In their final two games of the season, both losses by shutout, the Bruins matched or surpassed their opposition — Rome and Mays — in the number of offensive plays. Against Mays, the Bruins ran 52 run or pass plays compared to 37 for the Raiders, but still lost. In a 21-0 setback at Rome, the Bruins had a smaller margin, but still tallied 48 plays to the Wolves’ 45.

What determined the outcome of those games? Turnovers.

Mays intercepted three passes and recovered a fumble. Rome had three interceptions. Rome and Mays had no turnovers against the Bruins. Rome and Mays, the two best teams the Bruins played this season, combined for 608 yards of total offense compared to 278 for Northwest, proving the point that turnovers kill offense.

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