LFO holds the hill Warriors end Ringgold dominance with 28-23 victory
Grown men were dancing on the turf of Tommy Cash Stadium Friday night, scarcely believing what they’d just seen.
But LFO’s Zach Vaughn was content to walk, albeit with head held high, among the crimsonclad celebrants, accepting hugs and congratulations for being the guiding hand of the biggest upset North Georgia has seen in quite some time. Ending a 12-game losing streak to their crosscounty (and region) rivals, the Ringgold Tigers, the Warriors rode a pair of fourthquarter touchdown runs by Vaughn to claim a 28-23 victory.
The Tigers had won the previous four meetings by a combined score of 215-39.
The Warriors (33, 1-0) dominated the first half against a flummoxed Ringgold defense, but fell behind as talented Tigers quarterback Cole Kibler engineered a pair of third-quarter touchdown drives. But on a night when Warriors played turnover-free football, they capitalized on a pair of fourth quarter turnovers by the Tigers (3-3. 0-1) to score the win.
Vaughn threw only seven passes on the night (completing five for a modest 48 yards), but he carried the football 30 times, including 19 in the second half, finishing with 116 yards rushing.
“We were so confident coming into this game, as confident as we were all season,” the senior signalcalled said. “This was absolutely the best game I’ve ever seen our offensive line play. It was lights out.”
Vaughn and his workhorse tailback, junior Nathan Williams, lugged the football 58 times between them, Williams gaining 146 of his 164 yards in the first half. He was fed the football 22 times in the first two periods, and rewarded Coach Bo Campbell’s confidence in him by bulling over for touchdowns of 6 and 8 yards.
Williams’ first touchdown came at the end of a game-opening 17-play drive, with all but one of them a rushing play. That drive chewed up over 7:30 off the clock saw Williams carry the football 11 times in all, including the first six plays.
It was a game plan Campbell – in his third year at the Warriors’ helm – had supreme confidence in.
“I have a lot of faith in these guys,” a drenched Campbell said afterwards. “I told them initially that this would be a process, and they believed totally in the process. I knew what our guys were capable of, and I knew we were capable of this. But we’ve been hurting ourselves. Tonight we finally played a complete game.”
The Warriors’ offensive line, consisting of tested veterans Nick Culpepper, Johnathan Cutcher, Tyler Simpson, Nick Clark and sophomore Noah Haney, cleared the way for the Warriors to chew up 278 yards on the ground and rack up 22 first downs against a Tiger defense that held Heritage to 13 points and was coming off of wins against region toughies Adairsville and Sonoraville.
“Coming in, we knew if we controlled the football well, we’d stand a pretty good chance to win the ballgame, because we’ve been playing pretty good defense,” Campbell said.
Campbell, perhaps surprisingly, had high praise for his pass defenders, even though they were flagged for four pass interference calls in the game.
“We told the guys before the game we wanted them to play aggressively,” he explained. “Our defensive backs played an unbelievable game on their wide receivers. Yeah, we got a couple of pass interference penalties, but they were on close plays. But I didn’t want the kids to back down and play timid.”
After swapping punts, LFO was able to stage another extended drive, the big play coming on a 33-yard Williams burst ahead of his own 6-yard TD run.
But there was no panic on the Ringgold sideline, as they settled for a 23-yard Garrett Davis field goal late in the first half after driving and stalling on the 6. A 44-yard Hail Mary pass to Dylan Wright set up the score, but Wright was one of two of Kibler’s targets to go down Friday. The other, tight end Drake Starks, has potentially the more serious leg injury of the two.
But Kibler had sophomore Pete Brower all night long. After catching three shorter throws for first downs, he pulled in the first of two scoring passes from Kibler on a 7-yard slant pattern that gave Ringgold the lead for the first time, 17-14.
Ringgold’s first touchdown came early
in the third quarter when a gimpy Ty Jones somehow outlegged the defense on a quickhitting 42-yard run. Unofficially, he was able to sustain his streak of 100-yard games by picking up 101 on 10 carries.
But the Warriors had an answer prepared once Ringgold took the lead. On an ugly drive marred by major penalties on both sides, Vaughn took it the final 28 yards on three plays to retake the lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Four plays later, the Warriors seized the first turnover of the night on a controversial fumble call on Kibler, who’d apparently began his throwing motion. That left a short field for Vaughn and his offense, which patiently ran the ball eight straight times leading to Vaughn’s second touchdown of the period.
Down two scores, the Tigers drove quickly down the field with plenty of time left, but a poor decision at the goal line, throwing into double coverage, saw LFO’s Chandler Bell make an acrobatic interception and 22-yard return. However, they were unable to kill the clock, giving it back to Ringgold with 2:30 left with the Tigers needing a miracle or two. They got one. Pinned near his own goal line, Kibler let loose a desperation heave to Brower. The sophomore pulled in it, shook a tackler and outran three Warriors for an 83-yard pass and catch with just 1:42 left in the game. Brower would finish the night with a career-high seven receptions for 155 yards.
Ringgold went for two to make a threepoint margin but failed. The subsequent onsides kick was recovered by Jackson Herrod and the clock was finally taken down to zeroes. The on-field party began moments later.
For Ringgold coach Robert Akins, his firstever loss to the Warriors was a bitter pill to swallow.
‘We were so undisciplined tonight,” Akins said. “Of course, (LFO) had a great game plan and they just took it to us, bested us fair and square. They wanted more than we did. My hat’s off to them.”
As crushing as the loss was to Akins, it was big for Campbell.
“This might be the best one ever,” he admitted. “The way the community has supported us, it’s a big win for all of us. And it definitely makes it more of a rivalry when both teams can win.”
Vaughn gained 116 yards on 30 carries, trailing only workhorse Williams, who gained 154.
LFO will look to make it two wins in a row as they head to Varnell this Friday for a subregion game against Coahulla Creek. Meanwhile, Ringgold will look to regroup at home as Murray County comes to Don Patterson Field for another subregion contest.