Dalton is explosive early but can't slow down Creekside in second round defeat

Nov. 17—A year ago, Dalton High School had its season end with a 61-0 loss to Creekside in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.

Facing the same school on the same field in the same round Friday night, it looked — through a half — like Dalton might complete the huge turnaround.

Then, Creekside got rolling and Dalton couldn't keep up.

Dalton led 24-14 but couldn't intervene as Creekside put up 35 straight points to take the game 49-24 and move on to the Class 5A quarterfinals.

Dalton ends a turnaround season at 8-4, just two years removed from a 2-8 finish and a year after a 6-6 record.

"Our guys played hard all season," Dalton head coach Kit Carpenter told the Dalton radio broadcast on Mix 104.5 after the game. "For our senior class to be 2-8 their sophomore season and go to the Sweet 16 twice really says a lot about them."

Dalton came out of the gates on fire, putting any memories of that lopsided shutout loss last year to bed on the very first play.

Quarterback Ethan Long dropped back and hit Bubba Tanner in stride for a 61-yard touchdown pass on the first offensive snap of the game.

Creekside answered with a long drive that ended in the first of three Travis Terrell rushing touchdowns, then the Catamounts needed just two plays to score another Tanner TD.

After Adriel Hernandez broke off a long run, Tanner took it 49 yards for a rushing score on the next play.

Adrian Gongora hit a short field goal when Dalton's next drive stalled at the Creekside 5 to make the lead 17-7. Terrell pushed in for a 1-yard score to cut it to 17-14.

Tanner continued a huge game in what would go on to become the senior's last in a red-and-white uniform.

A trick play on which Tanner fooled the Creekside defense into thinking he was subbing out of the game went for big yardage after Tanner stopped at the sideline before the snap and Long hit the uncovered receiver for a gain to the Creekside 19.

Long hit Tanner for 3 yards on third-and-goal to put Dalton up 24-14 with 5:45 left in the first half.

Looking to get a late stop and go into the half with a 10-point lead, Dalton was instead unable to keep Creekside out of the end zone after a 17-play drive. Roderick McCrary scored a 1-yard touchdown to cut the Catamount advantage to 24-21 at halftime.

With the Seminoles getting the ball after halftime, quarterback Vinson Berry finished off the opening drive with a 1-yard rushing score to give Creekside its first lead.

Dalton went three-and-out on its next offensive possession and had to punt away the ball for the first time all game.

After the early offensive explosion, including two touchdowns in three plays early, Dalton ran out of gas on the offensive side, not scoring in the second half.

"We did everything we could to conserve as much energy as we could, but, in the end, it wasn't enough," Carpenter said.

Berry hit Shane Kelley in stride for a 52-yard touchdown, and the lead was 11.

Dalton failed on a fake punt, and Terrell scored his third touchdown, and the lead was 18.

Berry went in for a 2-yard touchdown on the opening play of the fourth quarter, and the lead was 25 after the 35th straight point from Creekside.

Tanner caught eight passes for 132 yards and the score in his final game. Long, a junior, went 18-for-33 for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Hernandez, another senior, rushed 76 yards on 15 carries.

Creekside's rushing attack gashed Dalton, as McCrary ran for 180 yards and Terrell tallied 110.

The Catamounts wrap up the season after starting 4-0, defeating rival Calhoun for the first time since 2016 and competing for the Region 7-5A championship in a winner-take-all game with Cartersville. The Catamounts reached the second round of the playoffs for a second straight season after waiting six years between playoff wins. Dalton finished with just two wins in both 2020 and 2021. The eight wins this season marked the most in a season for Dalton since the 2016 squad went 13-1 and went to the state semifinals.