ARCHIVE PHOTO BY LISA McGINTY | LMc Photography
Tate Geiser with the carry.
By ZACH McFARREN
DGKN sports writer
For four days, coach Broc Dial and his squad prepared for their WCAL opener against Chippewa. Then, as seems to be the case lately, COVID happened. With the Chipps unavailable to play, Dalton picked up the Ridgewood Generals. What was supposed to be a home game turned into a road affair against a very good opponent. And Dalton was up for the challenge, even though they came home on the wrong end of a 14-7 score.
Ridgewood came into the game averaging 54 points a ballgame. It became evident early on, however, that this would be an old fashioned slugfest, and instead of offensive fireworks, both defenses would get after it.
Dalton’s only possession on the first quarter lasted just two minutes. When the quarter came to an end, the score was knotted at zero, but the Generals had set up camp inside the Dawgs one yard line. After a 73 yard, eight minute drive, Dalton turned Ridgewood away, however, and Dalton started its second drive of the game in the shadow of their own end zone, something that would become a theme for Dalton throughout the game.
“Field position was a big factor, especially in the first half,” Dial commented after the game. “But our young men kept fighting and clawing. We had a really good effort.”
Dalton once again held the ball for only two minutes and the Generals were deep inside Dawg territory after receiving a punt on the 39 yard line. This time, after moving the ball inside the two a second time, Dalton could not keep the Generals from scoring as they took a 7-0 lead with just under six minutes remaining in the half.
The two teams would exchange punts on the following possessions. Dalton would take possession with just over two minutes remaining before halftime and moved the ball into Ridgewood territory. However, with time running out, Ridgewood picked off a desperation throw near the end zone, and Dalton went into the locker room at half still down 7-0.
The second half proved to be much the same as the first. Both teams unwilling to break and each punishing the other.
The third quarter brought turnovers from both teams. For Dalton, Owen Beatty stopped a Ridgewood drive with his fourth interception of the season. On the Generals’ next possession, Collin Jones recovered a fumble, and this time, Dalton would not be denied. Following gains of 21 and 15 yards, first on a Stutz to Malone completion, then a Tate Geiser run, Dalton was on the Generals’ 14 yard line. And as the third quarter expired, the Dawgs were poised to tie the game. At the 10:12 mark of the fourth, Jaden Schlabach rammed his way in from the 2, and it was a new game, tied at seven.
The Generals held the ball for six minutes, and when Dalton finally took over, the ball was again sitting on the Dalton one yard line. Follow-ing a quick three and out, Ridgewood had a short field and took advantage, pushing the ball over the goalline to take a 14-7 lead with just 1:20 left to play. And the Bulldogs attacked. Starting on their own 34, Dalton moved the ball down the field, as quarterback Ethan Stutz found Jaiden Malone and Beatty for chunks of yardage at a time. Facing a 4th and three, Stutz kept the ball around the left side for a first down on the Ridgewood 18. But with a single second on the clock, a throw to the endzone fell to the turf and the Generals escaped with a 14-7 win.
The stats for this game were not overwhelming. No 100 yard rushers. No 100 yard passers or receivers. Neither team amassed 250 yards of offense. Instead, this was what old timers may call a simple old fashioned slobber knocker. Two quality opponents doing what good teams should do, and that is fight until the end. Dalton will now look forward to a delayed WCAL opener. With the product they turn out on the field each Friday night, the wins should start to add up.