Riding the wave of its most successful season in school history, the Dawson County High football team will host No. 2 Blessed Trinity on Friday in a Class AAA state quarterfinal at Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers (9-3) will make their first state quarterfinal appearance in school history against undefeated Blessed Trinity (11-0-1), who knocked off No. 5 Jefferson in Roswell Friday night.
"It's the first time in school history that we've ever been in the Elite Eight. I'm pretty excited," said sophomore quarterback Coey Watson. "I've never had so much fun in my life."
The Tigers kept their championship dream alive Friday night, defeating Spencer High's Green Waves 22-12 in the second round of the state playoffs.
"What a great night for Dawson County and Dawson County football," said Coach Sid Maxwell. "I told these boys I love them, and I'm proud of them."
While the Tigers celebrated along with friends, family and fans that stormed the field after Friday night's win, the coaching staff might very well have been more emotional than the players.
Defensive Coordinator Brent Cox held back tears of joy talking to the team.
"I don't know why, but this is the most emotional I've been at a game in a long time," he said. "Unbelievable job against that team."
Wide Receiver Coach Gary Wilson went as far as to let the team shave his mustache, one he's had since he was 17-years-old, in celebration of the win, with the promise that a win this Friday means they can also shave his head.
Maxwell and Titans coach Tim McFarlin flipped a coin Saturday morning, following the second-round victories, and determined that Dawson County would play its third straight home playoff game.
"It's a great opportunity for these young men," said Maxwell. "They've worked so hard to get this far. It's great to have a lot of firsts for Dawson this year. There have been many years of frustration, but this is great for the community."
Since the program began, Dawson County had never progressed past the second round of the state playoffs. Just last year, the Tigers finished last in Region 7-AAA with a 2-8 record.
Then, Maxwell took over.
In his first year in Dawsonville, he helped the Tigers earn their first region title behind Watson's standout play (1,556 yards, 12 touchdowns) and senior running back Hunter Mitchell (920 yards, nine touchdowns).
Maxwell spent the bulk of his career at Sequoyah High School in Cherokee County before leaving to start the Lambert High football program in Forsyth County in 2009. He has compiled a 133-75 career record during his 20 seasons as a head coach.
The Tigers romped through their region schedule, survived an offensive battle against Ringgold to open the postseason, and held on late to down Spencer on Friday in the second round.
Maxwell said Saturday that he had challenged his players to reach "Game 13," which will come against Blessed Trinity. The two teams have never met.
"You always, as a coach, set the bar high," he said. "That's one of the things we set out as a measuring stick, and we're here. When you have the opportunity to get to the Elite Eight, the ball bounces your way, you have a little luck."
Maxwell said he and McFarlin are friends from when they used to work at Sequoyah and Roswell, respectively.
Staff writer Michele Hester contributed to this story.