One Championship & One Runner-Up
When Dalton Public Schools opened Hammond Creek Middle School (6th and 7th grades) this August, the new facility and new grade configurations gave DPS much needed space and created more opportunities for academic innovations and educational support. However, the school also seized the opportunity to begin separate 6th and 7th grade football teams and join the Georgia Middle School Athletic Association (GMSAA). GMSAA is the largest middle school athletic association in the state and offers a competitive regular season followed by a three-round playoff.
The two teams were coached by the same staff under Head Coach George Woods and compiled an overall record of 17-6. The 7th grade team finished as GMSAA champions with the 6th grade Tigers earning runner-up honors. Hammond Creek Principal Lauri Johnson noted that “…our first football season filled me with pride, gratitude and awe for what our athletes accomplished. The teamwork and leadership skills that students learn on the field carry over to the classroom and beyond … I can’t wait to watch these young men continue to grow … the best is yet to come for [them].”
Both teams dedicated the season to Offensive Line Coach Sean Hammond who passed away before the first game. Each team wore “Hammond Way” compression shirts as part of their game day attire.
7th Grade Tigers
The Hammond Creek 7th grade Tigers showed incredible perseverance and improvement throughout the season. At one point, the Tigers suffered three straight losses and were at risk of missing the playoffs. However, the team rallied in the second half of the season to enter the 8-team playoff as a three seed. The team would never lose again, knocking off two seed South Cobb on the road with a dominating 42-12 win. Next, the Tigers traveled to #1 Seed Cartersville looking to avenge a previous loss in the regular season. The Tigers left victorious, 28-14, to set up a showdown with Walton. Playing at a neutral site in Marietta, the Tigers prevailed 14-12 in a hard-fought battle that featured two goal line stands by a stout defense and multiple long, clock-consuming drives by a physical offensive attack. Coach Woods kept telling the team that they were “not the underdogs” in the playoffs and he was right because in the end, they became champions.
6th Grade Tigers
The younger Tiger team also completed a successful first season with notable regular season wins over Rome, Creekview, Cambridge, and Sprayberry. The Tigers entered the playoffs as a two seed. Playing with teamwork and determination throughout the season, the Tigers defeated Wheeler in the first round (47-6), setting up a showdown on the road against #1 Seed East Paulding. The Tigers played great on both sides of the ball to win 26-8. The Tigers faced Cartersville in the Championship game and battled through a scoreless first half before losing a heartbreaker late in the 4th quarter, 14-12.
All season long the teams were encouraged by Coach Woods to play for “each other, their school, the ‘Hammond Way’, and for the Dalton community.”
“My family has been part of Dalton football for 50 years, so I was thankful for the opportunity to help lead the new program at Hammond Creek, but this is so much bigger than one school and even this special group of players and coaches. This is about our town [of Dalton] and the Big Red tradition that so many of us are proud to be part of … ” Woods said.
And with a championship and runner-up finish in Year One, a new tradition looks to be forming at Hammond Creek!