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2021 Recap: Top highlights of Dawson County sports
The 2021 Dawson County High School cheerleading team with their state championship trophy after winning the title in Macon on Friday, Nov. 19. Photo submitted.

With 2021 officially in the rearview mirror, it’s that time again to look back at the top highlights of the past year. Here are some of the top moments in Dawson County sports from 2021. 

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Chase Elliott. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Chase Elliott finished fourth in NASCAR Cup Series and was voted the Most Popular Driver

Dawsonville native and NASCAR driver Chase Elliott finished fifth at Phoenix Raceway to finish the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season fourth in the playoff point standings on Nov. 7. In an attempt to win back-to-back Cup Series titles this season, Elliott finished with two wins, 15 top-five finishes, 21 top-10 finishes and 952 laps led. 

In early December, Elliott upheld his streak of being voted as the National Motorsports Press Association Most Popular Driver Award presented by Hooters. Elliott has now won the honor four years in a row, topping this year’s balloting, which ran from Nov. 9 through Dec. 1 and was based completely on voting by fans. 

Also notable in NASCAR news this year was the production of a NASCAR-produced documentary about Chase Elliott, entitled “CHASE”. The documentary premiered on Aug. 25 and told the story of Elliott’s racing career, starting before he was even born with his father Bill Elliott’s rise to racing fame, narrated by Dale Earnhardt Junior. 

Bill and Chase Elliott raced against each other 

For the first time in almost eight years, both Bill and Chase Elliott took the wheel and faced off at the Camping World SRX Series season finale on July 17. The only other time the father and son had competed against one another on the same track was in 2013 in the Alabama Pro 125 Late Model race, when Chase won the race and Bill finished in fourth place. In the race, Chase Elliott won the race against his father. Both father and son said that they’d had a great time racing against one another, with Chase describing it as one of “the moments that I remember forever”. 

The Lady Tigers cheerleading squad won the fourth state title in the school’s history 

On Nov. 19, the Lady Tigers cheerleading squad made history by winning their first state championship since 1995. The competition marked Dawson County High School’s fourth state championship win. 

Since Head Coach Kim Fleming started the competitive cheer program at DCHS in 1995, she has led her team to win 20 region championships, six region runner-ups, an appearance in the state tournament every year except one and 16 top-six finishes at state. The Dawson County competitive cheer team finished state runner-up in 2019 and third place in 2020. 

The Dawson County cheer team competed against the other top-15 3A schools in the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) and finished with a 93 out of a possible 100 points, with no deductions. Pierce County High School from Blackshear, Ga, the next closest school, finished with an 87.5. 

The Dawson County Tigers boys cross country team finished 11th at state 

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The 2021 DCHS boys cross country team after finishing 11th in the state. - photo by Jacob Smith

On Nov. 5, the Dawson County Tigers boys cross country team finished in 11th place at the GHSA 3A state meet. 

The team finished third in Region 7-3A and stuck together to finish just outside of the top 10 at the state meet. Senior Ethan Smith led the Tigers, finishing in 18th place overall with a time of 17:42.08. Freshman Bailey Swafford finished second on the team with a time of 19:21.36 and sophomore Cael Hand finished third on the team with a time of 19:21.64. 

The rest of the team included sophomore Tyler Tangel with a time of 19:31.96, sophomore Luke Lowe with a time of 19:48.13, senior Ryan McGinnis with a time of 19:52.73 and senior Devin Knight with a time of 20:01.44. 

The Lady Tigers softball team finished fifth at state 

For the first time since 2014, the Dawson County High School Lady Tigers softball team advanced to the state playoffs for the GHSA 3A softball state tournament. The team played in a best-of-three series against Tattnall County High School to win their spot in the state tournament. 

On Oct. 28, the team started the state tournament with a 13-5 victory over Pike County. On Oct. 29, the team was mercy-ruled in both of their games and eliminated from the state tournament, finishing fifth in the state. By the end of their season, the DCHS team was the only team left in their region and the only four seed to advance to the state tournament out of any GHSA classification. 

The Dawson County Tigers football team advanced to the Sweet 16 state tournament 

The Dawson County Tigers football team advanced to the Sweet 16 of the GHSA 3A football state tournament in November. This is the fifth year in a row the Tigers have advanced to the second round of the state tournament. 

The Tigers beat the Sandy Creek Patriots 36-27 in the first round of the state playoffs on Nov. 12 to advance to the Sweet 16 of the tournament. The team then ended their season on Nov 19, losing to reigning GHSA 3A station champions Pierce County 49-0. 

The Tigers celebrated their Sweet 16 appearance with their annual end-of-year banquet on Dec. 12, complete with recognitions and awards for many of the players.

A new homecoming king and queen were crowned 

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Senior homecoming king and queen Braedon Hubbard (left) and Blake Smith after being crowned as the 2021 king and queen by 2020 king Max Tierny and Dawson County High School principal Michael Negley. Photo by Clair Hartley.

During halftime of the Dawson County High School football game on Sept. 10, the school named its new 2021 homecoming king and queen. Seniors Braedon Hubbard and Blake Smith were crowned 2021 homecoming king and queen by 2020 homecoming king Max Tierny and DCHS Principal Michael Negley.

Hubbard is involved in the school’s football team and bass fishing team. He has started as a defensive back the last three years for the Tigers and was a Georgia Bass Fishing Association state champion last year. Smith plays for the Dawson County tennis team and is involved with several organizations at DCHS, including the National Honor Society and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. 

The Dawson County Middle School cross country team won the 2021 Mountain League Championship 

On Sept. 28, the Dawson County Middle School girls cross country team won the 2021 Mountain League Championship. The race marked the first one the team beat Fannin County all season. 

Eighth grader Hayden Hand, who won every individual race this season, once again won the individual title. Addison Smith and Harper Dussouy placed in the top five as well. Seventh grader McKenzie Adamson finished in 14th place and Maria Gloeckner finished in 21st. 

Dawson County News held the inaugural “Athlete of the Year” banquet 

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State Rep. Will Wade spoke to students directly during the inaugural Dawson County News Athlete of the Year Banquet, telling them that no matter where life takes them, they will always be a Tiger. - photo by Alexander Popp

On May 12, Dawson County News hosted the first ever Athlete of the Year Banquet at Cold Creek Farms. More than 70 athletes, coaches and family members attended the event in honor of the 10 Dawson County High School athletes recognized by the DCN. 

Senior basketball player Madison Anglin was crowned Female Athlete of the Year, and sophomore football and basketball player Jaden Gibson was awarded Male Athlete of the Year. State Rep. Will Wade (R-Dawsonville), who is a DCHS alumnus and former basketball player, was the event’s keynote speaker. 

Dawson County welcomed a new athletic director, defensive coordinator and softball coach

Former Dawson County High School defensive coordinator Bradley Fowler was hired as the school’s next Athletic Director and started his new role for the 2021-22 school year. Fowler has been with DCHS for the past five years as a coach and a teacher, and before that he spent 17 years teaching all over the metro-Atlanta area, including Forsyth, Cherokee, Cobb and Fulton counties. He described the role as a “dream job”, saying that he did his students teaching at DCHS in 1998 and has always wanted to come back to the county. 

After Fowler moved from the Dawson County Tigers football defensive coordinator to the DCHS athletic director, defensive line coach Craig Woodall was promoted to fill the vacated position as defensive coordinator. Woodall played for head coach Sid Maxwell while Maxwell was at Sequoyah High School and coached alongside him at Sequoyah and Lambert High School. 

In April, Dawson County High School announced the hiring of Justin Rickett as the school’s new head softball coach. Rickett served as the head coach of the West Forsyth Wolverines softball team for 10 years and before that was an assistant coach at West. His hiring came after longtime Lady Tigers head coach Jimmy Pruett announced his retirement at the end of March. 

The third grade rec football team won the Mountain League Championship

This year, the Dawson County third grade parks and rec football team won the Mountain League Championship, finishing 9-1. The team had 26 players sign up at the beginning of the season, doubling the number of players they had from the first two years. 

The team faced Chestatee in the championship game and won the championship 19-14. All three Tiger touchdowns were scored by quarterback Andrew Vanderoff, who was awarded Most Valuable Player of the game. 

Dawson County High School student Buddy Benson was named BASS Co-Angler of the Year 

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Buddy Benson.

DCHS student Elijah “Buddy” Benson was named a Co-Angler of the Year by the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS). He was one of three fishermen in the southern division who were selected by BASS as a Co-Angler of the Year. For the upcoming 2022 season, he will fish as a boater in the Southern Bass Open in 2022, and BASS will pay the professional fee for Benson to compete in their Elite Series tournaments. 

8 Lady Tigers were recognized on All-Region softball team 

After finishing in fifth at state, eight members of the Dawson County High School Lady Tigers softball team were recognized on the 7-3A All-Region team. Senior Rylie Erickson and sophomore Layne Bailey both made the First Team All-Region. Seniors Olivia Martinez and Annslee Kirby and junior Lauren Kurtz all made the Second Team All-Region for the Lady Tigers. Senior Ainsley Allen, junior Reese Moore and freshman Micah Burruss were all named as All-Region Honorable Mentions. 

18 Tigers made the All-Region football team 

After advancing to their fifth Sweet 16 in the 2021 GHSA football state tournament, 18 members of the Dawson County Tigers football team made the 7-3A All-Region team. Senior quarterback Zach Holtzclaw was named the All-Region Offensive Player of the Year, and both he and senior wide receiver Bailey Dameron were on offense on the First Team for the Tigers. 

Four of the juniors on defense were on the First Team: defensive lineman Cade Adams, linebacker Kade Moledor, defensive lineman Kevin Haymond and defensive back Kenny Nelson. The seventh tiger on the First Team was sophomore kicker Dominic LeBlanc. 

The Tigers on the Second Team were senior running back Conley Dyer and senior wide receiver Braedon Hubbard, senior linebacker Will Whalen, senior defensive lineman AJ Moore and junior linebacker Matt Bennett. Honorable mentions went to senior defensive lineman Logan Berry, senior offensive lineman Jimmy Fallstrom, senior running back Jackson Grindle, senior offensive lineman Connor Scroggins, junior defensive back Christian Webb and sophomore offensive lineman Briggs Weaver. 

Community members rallied around Mason Palmour 

Mason Palmour (center), student at Dawson County High School, with his friends and teammates on the football team.

In November, Dawson County High School student and football player Mason Palmour was rushed through brain surgery after being found unresponsive on Thanksgiving morning. A tumor had grown on Palmour’s brain, and he was scheduled to have surgery to remove the tumor but rushed into surgery on Nov. 29, where surgeons successfully removed more of the tumor. 

One of Palmour’s fellow DCHS student’s mothers let the football team and family know of what Palmour was going through, and Nov. 28 around 50 to 55 people gathered at the DCHS football field to pray for and collect donations for him, raising over $20,000 was raised to help with his medical expenses.