It may not have been a perfect game in Dalton High football coach Matt Land’s eyes, but his Catamounts’ performance on Friday night was plenty good enough.
Behind an offense that amassed nearly 400 yards and a defense that gave up only 47, Dalton climbed back over the .500 mark with a resounding 43-0 victory over the LaFayette Ramblers at Jack King Stadium.
The Catamounts (4-3, 2-1 in Sub-region 7B-4A) jumped out to a 20-0 lead after the first 12 minutes on a six-yard run by Robert Hardaway, a 3-yard run by Kelvis Rhodes, and a 65-yard catch-and-run by Brandon Dale with just five seconds remaining in the first quarter.
However, Dalton’s offense did sputter some in the second quarter.
An incomplete pass on a fake punt halted a lengthy drive at the 12-yard line of LaFayette (1-6, 1-2). Another possession was marred by two penalties and a sack before Ethan Tripp picked off Dalton quarterback Cole Calfee at the LaFayette 25 seconds before halftime.
“We had a horrible second quarter, and that’s on me,” Land said. “I lost my focus, and it caused us to lose our focus. We jumped out 20-0 real quick, and we tried doing some things that just weren’t us. We’re a power running team and we went back and found ourselves at halftime. I’m proud of the kids for the way they responded.”
Dalton fumbled again on the LaFayette 1 midway through the third quarter, but after forcing a three-and-out, the Cats’ Eder Mora — a defensive starter who saw time at fullback — spun out of two tackles and raced 45 yards to make it 27-0.
Then, after another three-and-out by LaFayette, Rhodes broke free on a 54-yard scoring jaunt to add to the lead.
Dalton’s backups got into the action in the fourth quarter. Jerry Moreno accounted for the final touchdown on a 10-yard run with 8:13 to play, and Dalton secured a safety in the closing minutes after the Ramblers fumbled a snap through the end zone on a punt attempt.
“You want to give the younger kids experience, because they are the team of the future,” Land said. “But you also want to reward them for busting their butts like starters do during the week.
“Our defense really wanted a shutout and we talked all week about it, so I’m really glad our second-team guys had to help us get that shutout, because it was good for continuity.”
Rhodes rushed 11 times for 130 of Dalton’s 332 yards on the ground. Dale picked up 65, mostly out of the wildcat formation, and Mora had 50 yards on four carries. Calfee’s touchdown pass was his only completion in five attempts.
LaFayette, which managed just three first downs, got 33 yards from Cody Dallas. Quarterback McKenzie Kelehear was limited to 7 yards on 2 of 6 passing.
Kolbe Mosley broke free for an 87-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter only to see it negated by one of the Ramblers’ nine penalties.