DAWSONVILLE - As Coach Sid Maxwell embraced his tearful son, Tucker, at midfield, he and the rest of the Tigers knew it was over. The greatest season in Dawson County football history came to an end Friday night in a 35-7 loss to No. 2 Blessed Trinity in the Class AAA state quarterfinals.
"When the seniors have to put their equipment up, it's tough to see them," Sid Maxwell said. "When you have one of your own, it's super tough. God has truly blessed me with the opportunity to coach him and coach these young men."
In Sid Maxwell's first year as Dawson County head coach, he took a 2-8 team the year before and went 9-4, setting a school record for most wins.
He also led the Tigers to their first region championship and first appearance in the state quarterfinals.
"All I did was bring a plan," Sid Maxwell said. "The biggest, probably, building process took the culture of our players, getting them to buy in and believing that they can play. It was a journey. We didn't start out too well. We were a 1-2 football team, but what they kept doing was never quit and they started believing that they could do it too and to see a transformation of young men starting to buy in and believing and playing together, that's what we coach for and what an unselfish bunch we have."
The game itself wasn't much of a contest.
On Dawson County's first possession, sophomore quarterback Coey Watson was stopped about a chain link short on fourth-and-one at the Tigers own 46 after Blessed Trinity was forced to punt to open the game. The Titans got the ball back and senior running back Milton Shelton ran it three times for 46 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown run to break open the scoring.
Shelton had two more possessions where he was responsible for all of the Titans' yardage. He capped off a three-play, 41-yard drive with a short burst into the end zone before completing another score after Watson threw a pick.
Shelton accounted for one more touchdown in the first half, in what was perhaps the dagger for Dawson County.
The Tigers punted the ball with 1:32 left in the half, down 21-0.
Blessed Trinity was moving down the field until a chop block moved the ball back to the Dawson County 28-yard line for a second-and-25 play. Shelton motioned out wide, caught a screen and danced through a helpless Tigers defense to score with 10 seconds until halftime.
"We had seven people in position to make a play, and he's such a good athlete that we didn't make it," Sid Maxwell said. "That's not to knock our players, but I tip my hat to him."
Shelton added one more touchdown in the third quarter for good measure before resting the entire fourth quarter. He finished 22 carries for 227 yards and five total touchdowns (four rushing).
Watson (8 of 21, 77 yards, 3 INTs) was under constant attack from an aggressive Blessed Trinity pass rush. He was sacked twice and gained 23 yards on 14 carries. That, however, failed to dampen his spirits as to where this Dawson County program is headed.
"All offseason, we're going to have the same plays from this year," Watson said. "We'll be working, building. People coming up and moving in are going to be excited about winning.
"Everything's going to change. People want to play for a winning team, they don't want to play on a losing team. We're going to get stronger in the offseason, we are going to get better and we're going to come back next year and we're going to do the same thing. We're going to keep winning."