It wasn’t the first time his number was called, but it might have been the last. If so, David Dingess picked a heck of a way to go out.
With seven seconds left in the Division II-AA state championship game against Chattanooga’s Baylor School on Dec. 7, the Ensworth wide receiver went up and snagged an 11-yard pass from Tigers quarterback Drew Parker for the game-winning touchdown. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Dingess, a 6-foot-5, 195-pound senior, was battling two Baylor defenders, both of whom had their hands on the ball. And Parker had lofted the pass to the right corner of the end zone, so his receiver was quickly running out of real estate.
Dingess, though, leapt up over the two defenders, grabbed the ball at its highest point and landed with both feet on the green grass. The three players involved tumbled to the ground; replays showed them all wrestling for possession of the ball. By rule, if more than one player catches the ball, the “tie” goes to the offensive player. The back judge didn’t hesitate and quickly signaled a touchdown.
“It was a really amazing feeling when it was called a touchdown. I wasn’t really sure if I had it or he [Baylor cornerback Jacob Huesman] had it or we both had it,” Dingess said. “Drew threw it up, and it was a pretty good ball. I knew I had to go make a play on it.”
It was Dingess’ second catch of the game and arguably the biggest of his career, capping off a huge Ensworth rally. The Tigers came from 14 points down to edge Baylor 28-21 and win the first state football championship in the school’s seven-year history.
Two weeks before the state championship game, the Ensworth wide receiver kept the Tigers’ title hopes alive. In a semifinal against Brentwood Academy, using the same route that he ran in the state title game, Dingess caught a 45-yard pass from Parker on a third-and-37. Yes, that’s right, a third-and-37. It wasn’t any old third-and-37, either. Ensworth was on its own 8-yard line with just over two minutes left in the game, down by six. A couple minutes later, the Tigers scored on Corey Batey’s 12-yard touchdown catch to finish off another comeback and win 20-19. Even so:
“I think the touchdown catch was probably the biggest,” the 18-year-old Dingess said. “The third-and-37 didn’t win us the state title.”
Dingess wrapped up his senior year with 31 catches for 560 yards and three touchdowns. He moved over from tight end after the second game and was second on the team in receptions and yards. For the three-sport athlete — he also plays basketball and baseball — the future is unclear. He is not sure which school he wants to attend or which sport he’ll pursue. He is interested in Texas Christian University and Samford.
“I guess I could have the opportunity to walk-on anywhere in all three sports,” he said. “Usually the favorite sport is the season I am in. … I think in college it would probably be baseball or football. I can’t really decide between those two.”
Coach Ricky Bowers, who is also the boys basketball coach at Ensworth, said Dingess has the skills to play football at the next level.
“He is smart. He has great hands. He is competitive, and he is very tall,” Bowers said. “So that is a pretty good combination.”
For now, it remains to be seen whether that touchdown will be Dingess’ last catch.
“That would feel pretty cool,” he said. “That would be pretty cool to have the last one be a game-winning touchdown pass.”
Even if it isn’t, the grab won’t be jarred loose from his memory.
“It will probably pop in my head once or twice a day,” Dingess said. “I’m pretty sure it will for the rest of my [time in] high school and probably for the rest of my life.”