Thursday, November 28, 2013
- by B.B. Branton
It’s been 22 years since Ringgold assistant head football coach Coby Holtcamp has had football practice as part of his Thanksgiving Day agenda.
Exactly 22 years to the day.
Today, the 40-year-old Holtcamp along with the other Ringgold Tiger coaches and players put the final touches on a game plan which hopefully will produce a Friday Night Lights home win against Central Carrollton in a Georgia AAA quarterfinal playoff game.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Turn back the calendar to Thursday Nov., 28, 1991 and a 17-year-old Holtcamp – a senior quarterback for the Whitwell Tigers - delayed turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie a few hours for a holiday morning playoff practice.
He probably had an extra slice or two of celebration pie the next night as he scored two touchdowns in a 28-7 Whitwell upset on the road of big, bad defending Class A state champ Trousdale County on Nov. 29.
Holtcamp, along with head coach Robert Akin who 10 years ago had that special T-Day practice on the way to a 1993 Boyd Buchanan state championship run, hope that their experience of winning big playoff games can be passed along to their players.
One Tiger who shines brighter as the stakes get higher is senior quarterback Slade Dale
While his athletic future is baseball – heading to the U. of Georgia next fall – he had performed some miracles on the gridiron this fall.
A prep version of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, Dale has confused and frustrated opposing defenses all season with his arm and legs, having led the Blue and White Tigers to the school’s first two playoff wins earlier this month.
“Slade has great football intelligence that you cannot coach,” said Holtcamp. “He has a great mind for the game.”
While Ringgold is known for its strong baseball program, Dale and company have given the Ringgold faithful a reason to make Friday night football a high priority.
But while Dale steals the headlines, a soft spoken 5-4, 15-year-old sophomore is the important exclamation point at the end of Dale’s dazzling, crowd-cheering plays.
Abel Vargas has been playing organized soccer since the age of four acquiring a few championship trophies along the way, never kicked an extra point until midway through this season and has been a key factor in the team’s success.
“He’s a godsend for our program,” said Holtcamp. “He’s Mr. Automatic having missed only one extra point attempt in seven games since taking over the extra point and field goal duties in the 30-0 win at Sonoraville, Oct. 4.
“At first, my parents were against me playing football thinking I would be chased by 200 pound linemen (Vargas weighs 130), but after I explained my role on the team they became supportive of my new sport,” said Vargas who makes As and Bs, and speaks fluent Spanish and is now studying German.
A win tomorrow night and a spot in the state semis will most likely depend on the exploits of Ringgold’s “Johnny Football” and his golden arm, but a one or two point Tiger victory could bring warranted attention for Mr. Automatic, better known as Abel “much more than able” Vargas.
contact B.B. Branton at firstname.lastname@example.org