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Support RHS by filling Finley Aug. 11

IF YOU GO

What: Ringgold vs. Ooltewah football extravaganza, five quarters of scrimmage between two of the area’s premier high school athletic programs.

When: Thursday, Aug. 11. Kick-off at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Finley Stadium, at 1826 Carter St. (intersection of 20th and Carter streets) in Chattanooga.

Cost: Tickets are $8.

How to get there: Take I-75 North to I-24 West to US 27 North (Downtown Chattanooga). Exit at Main Street (Exit 1) or M.L. King Boulevard. Take an immediate right onto Carter Street. Finley Stadium is straight ahead. Parking lots are available on both sides of Reggie White Boulevard.

Tomorrow night, fans of high school football and supporters of Ringgold and Ooltewah high schools will have a golden opportunity to enjoy a game and help RHS’s athletic department.

Under the bright lights of Finley Stadium, teams from these two athletic powerhouses will face off in what is a preamble to the annual Best of Preps High School Football Jamboree and a fundraiser for the RHS athletic department.

Friday and Saturday, a total of 23 teams from Southeast Tennessee, plus Whitfield County’s newest comprehensive high school, Coahulla Creek, will play two quarters in the stadium where 13 NCAA Division I National Championship Games were played.

But Thursday night, thanks to Ooltewah’s coaches, administration and Touchdown Club, is all about Ringgold.

“This is a first for us to play in the jamboree,” said Ringgold head coach and athletic director Robert Akins. “In Georgia we’re only allowed one full-game scrimmage so we’ve never participated since it only gives limited playing time.”

In his years as Boyd-Buchanan High School’s coach, Akins’ teams did participate in jamborees and he thinks it will be a memorable night for this year’s Tigers.

“Just the environment of being in that setting is comparable to playing in a state championship,” he said. “That is big-time football.”

From scrimmage to showcase

Ooltewah coach Shannon Williams said during the winter the two schools agreed to having a full-pad scrimmage. Since Georgia only allows one such scrimmage, it was decided that rather than a jamboree, the schools would follow a home and home arrangement so more athletes could have playing time.

The schools are familiar with one another, and not just because both are located within sight of the western slopes of the White Oak Mountain that ranges from Ringgold, Ga. to Georgetown, Tenn.

“Shannon [Williams] was offensive line coach for Benny Monroe while I was at Boyd-Buchanan and my son is offensive coordinator/ wide receivers/ quarterback coach at Ooltewah,” Akins said. “And we’ve done 7-on-7 with them all summer; we are very familiar with one another.”

This year’s scrimmage was scheduled to take place in Ooltewath, Williams said, but that was before the April 27 tornado shredded Ringgold’s stadium and field. Though repairs are under way, the stadium will be unusable this season.

Ooltewah’s head coach said it was decided that some of the proceeds from this year’s scrimmage would be donated to the Ringgold athletic department which lost equipment and uniforms to the storm.

“The whole field house was condemned,”Akins said. “We salvaged the varsity uniforms, but the junior high lost all its equipment and uniforms. We’ve received donations of about $300,000 and more fundraisers are in the works, but we still have a big gap and it will probably take several years to make up the losses to our programs.”

That is why being invited to move the scrimmage to Finley Stadium is looked on favorably.

“This will be a fun thing for the kids,” Williams said. “It is a great opportunity to showcase both programs and means we can raise more funds.”

A lagniappe for fans

Thursday night’s events offer spectators a bonus, particularly if they are primarily interested in the two schools involved.

The scrimmage will involve two quarters of play by the varsity teams, one quarter each of the junior varsity and freshman teams and then a “situational quarter” — much like an overtime — that will again feature the varsity squads.

“None of the kicking game will be live,” Akins said. “There will be kickoffs and punts, but the ball will go into play from where it lands. Ooltewah’s is a hurry-up offense, so we’ll try to slow it down.”

One oddity of the contest tomorrow night is that Ooltewah will be the “home” team, odd because Ringgold will play all its home games at Finley Stadium this year while its own stadium is being rebuilt. Adding to the unusual nature of the game is that all fans — unless all Finley Stadium’s 20,688 seats are needed — will sit on the “home team” side.

“We feel it is an opportunity for two communities,” Williams said. “There is a natural connection between the two. Ooltewah-Ringgold Road is called that for a reason. And it will be good to see the red and blue mingle in the stands and on the field. The more people turn out for this scrimmage, the better it is for both schools.”

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