RINGGOLD, Ga. (WRCB) -- Slade Dale limped off the field after scoring his first touchdown Friday night.
Turns out, Ringgold had Central-Carroll right where it wanted them.
With its dual-threat quarterback limited by a knee injury, the Tigers turned to D.L. Goins, Kile Sholl and a stout defense to beat down the visiting Lions 35-10 in the Class AAA state quarterfinals on Don Patterson Field.
The win, which avenges a 19-15 regular season loss to Central-Carroll, extends the best season in program history for at least one more week. The Tigers (11-2) will travel to Washington County next Friday in their first state semifinal appearance.
"Our first goal was to come out here and redeem ourselves. We played our hearts out and did just that. Now we're heading to the Final Four," said Goins, who finished with 129 yards on the ground. "We found out Slade wasn't feeling too well, so we told him to take a break and we put it on our shoulders tonight."
With its physical offensive line paving the way, Goins and Sholl combined for 214 rushing yards and two scores while slowly wearing the Lions down. The defense followed suit with a pair turnovers and two more fourth-down stops, including one at the one-yard line in the opening quarter.
"This team just doesn't know how to give up," said head coach Robert Akins. "The first time we played them we made a lot of mistakes, but I thought we really came out and executed well tonight. The kids who we really needed to step up like (Christian) Plott and Sholl and Goins, they all really stepped up.
"And our guys in the trenches and on defense played as well as they've played all year."
Dale scored from 10 yards out on the opening drive for a 7-0 lead, but took a hard hit on his left knee as he reached the end zone. He spent the rest of the night pacing up and down the sideline or riding a stationary bike between drives to stay loose, but the Ringgold offense didn't miss a beat.
After Central-Carroll tied it at 7-all, Dale proved his arm was still feeling fine on a 50-yard strike to Plott for a 14-7 advantage that held until the half. The Tigers' defense held the Lions to a field goal after a lengthy march to start the second half, and the offense quickly answered with Dale's 1-yard run for a 21-10 lead.
Goins recovered a fumble that led to Sholl's 3-yard run and Logan Baldwin picked off a Wesley Long pass to set up Goins' 34-yard run to complete the scoring.
Zach Morris and Dakota Baer led the defensive charge, combining for 33.5 tackles.
"We never gave up on defense. We just kept fighting and working like it was 0-0 the whole game," said Morris, who also added two sacks while playing with a heavily-taped elbow. "I'm just speechless right now. We're into the Final Four. I guess we'll just keep making history."
The next step would be Ringgold's greatest yet.
Top-seeded Washington County (12-0) enters the semifinals unbeaten after blasting Blessed Trinity 46-17 in the other quarterfinal. The Golden Hawks have won their three playoff games by a combined score of 158-40.
But the Tigers will wait until next week to worry about that.
"This is the best feeling in the world, man," Dale said, shrugging off his injury. "We're all family here and we depend on each other. If one of us can't get it done, someone else will step up to get it done. We had so much support here tonight with this community and this school.
"They saw us make history again."