RINGGOLD, Ga. (WRCB) -- The hours after Ringgold football's most recent victory played out like a scene from the popular television show "Friday Night Lights" for Slade Dale.
Don Patterson Field was empty and its lights long dimmed, yet the game played on in the mind of the Tigers' senior quarterback.
"Me and some guys were just driving around Ringgold, just thinking about how great it was," he said. "We were sitting in the parking lot looking at the field thinking, 'Man, we just made history.'"
In the first-ever state playoff game Ringgold had ever hosted, the Tigers outlasted North Hall 55-54 in a thrilling win that proved to be the program's first-ever postseason victory.
It was an achievement 64 years in the making.
"It was crazy. Everybody rushed the field," said senior receiver/defensive back Christian Plott. "It's the first time we've hosted and we won. It was a great feeling, senior year, to finally get a state win under our belts."
It was especially sweet for Robert Akins.
The veteran head coach has tasted plenty of postseason success, having previously won a TSSAA state championship at Boyd-Buchanan. However, he had never before shared that experience with the Tigers in his seven-year tenure at Ringgold.
"I probably stayed up until four o'clock the next morning just because I couldn't wind down," he said. "It was a great game and our kids played so hard."
Akins admitted the game may have been a little too great. He would have preferred a chance to catch his breath a time or two.
The Tigers dug themselves an early 21-7 hole in the first quarter before rallying to pull even at 35 at the half.
"We had to pick it up on defense, but we knew our offense would score again," said Plott, who pulled in two first-half touchdown passes from Dale. "We just had to keep scoring and stay calm. When we got the ball back we just started doing what we had to do."
The two sides went blow-for-blow the entire second half as well, with the difference proving to be North Hall's missed extra point with 4:17 left and a missed field goal that hit the cross bar in the final seconds.
"The characteristic of this team has been perseverance. They just don't give up," Akins said. "They fight to the very end and they have all year, but you can't be happy for long. You can enjoy it for a few minutes, then you have to move on to the next game."
As luck would have it, that next game will also be at home after fourth-seeded Cedar Grove upset No. 1 Elbert County on the other side of the bracket.
Now the Tigers have an opportunity to write the next episode of a script good enough for Hollywood. After all, clear eyes, full hearts and a little bit of perseverance can't lose.
"Friday Night Lights, man. We try to live that show, and we are right now," said Dale, who finished with 384 total yards in the win. "We' re just a few good friends living large in Ringgold. We're making history, and it's awesome."
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