It’s still much too early for senioritis, but for Dalton coach Ronnie McClurg, it was an awful time for fumbleitis.

The Catamounts’ first- and second-team offenses put the ball on the ground five times over a span of about 50 plays during Dalton’s Red and White Game on Friday afternoon at the practice field.

The controlled scrimmage wrapped up spring practice, leaving McClurg and his players a lot to mull over as they enter the summer.

“I was disappointed with the offense,” said McClurg, who had to come down hard on his team several times during the scrimmage. “We had too much miscommunication out there. ... With that many fumbles, we couldn’t beat a middle school team.”

There was a price for the fumbles. As has been the rule throughout spring practice, players were required to hit the turf and do push-ups after each fumble.

But while McClurg was critical of simple execution on offense, he noted the absence of three starters on the offensive line. Will Brackett (back), Andrew Norris (elbow) and Rob Griffin (shoulder) were nursing injuries, forcing replacements on the interior line.

Because of the new faces on the line, rhythm was lacking, McClurg suggested. The majority of the errors were botched center exchanges. Dalton’s first-team offense had bad handoffs on three of its first nine plays of the scrimmage.

The offense’s first play of the afternoon resulted in a sack.

“We’ve been depleted (on the line) before we ever got started,” McClurg said. “Our center (today) didn’t play last year. Our right guard didn’t play last year. So we asked some kids to step up today and just had some problems. ... Maybe there was (defensive) pressure on those plays — I won’t know until I watch the film.”

Dalton’s championship-caliber defense and kicker Adrian Mora were in 2005 form, however.

Mora drew a spirited ovation from about 300 spectators watching the action from the hilltop overlooking the field. The rising senior nailed field goals from 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 yards near the end of the scrimmage. A 60-yard attempt fell a tad shy.

A scout from Eastern Kentucky was in attendance and seen talking to Mora and linebacker Preston Keck after the scrimmage.

“I feel good,” said Mora, who drilled field goals from 51 and 46 yards last fall. “I’m coming off soccer season, so my leg feels pretty strong.”

McClurg, as usual, ran out of superlatives when talking about his kicker.

“Adrian’s just great,” he said. “He has a very lively leg and we’re used to seeing this. He’s probably our MVP right now.”

Rising junior middle linebacker Jake McIntosh was complimentary of the job performed by the defensive line. Andre Johnson snuffed out a shovel pass on the opening possession and later recovered a mishandled snap. David Hall and Garren Palmer made plays to limit the offense to short gains and Tate Metcalf picked off a screen pass.

“The defensive line looked really good,” said McIntosh, a 6-1, 200-pounder who led the area in tackles last season. “Them playing well allows the linebackers to make plays and pick up a lot of tackles.

“I thought we got a lot accomplished today.”

Eric Green, still an eighth grader at Dalton Middle but who will be a freshman in the fall, impressed coaches with his breakaway speed. He scored on a long touchdown run against incoming ninth-graders and later took some reps with quarterback Harrison Scott and the first-team offense.

“Eric’s a young kid with a lot of speed,” McClurg said. “It doesn’t matter whether a kid’s going to be a freshman — if they’re good enough to be on the varsity, then they’re going to be on varsity. That’s how we do things.”

Dalton has posted 46 consecutive winning seasons. The Cats start summer practice the first week of August and open the season Sept. 1 at home against defending Class 2A runner-up Calhoun.

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