Coming off an early bye, the Dawson County football team had an extra week to prepare for their Sep. 13 game in Oakwood with the West Hall Spartans, and then had to wait just a bit longer as lightning delayed the kickoff by almost one hour. From the opening drive to the last, it was apparent that the team had put that time to good use as the Tigers put up 31 unanswered first half points and went on to win by a final score of 34 – 0 when threatening weather ended the match in the third quarter.
Junior Isaiah Grindle set the tone for the Tigers on the opening kick, finding a gap in the coverage and returning the ball to the Tigers 35-yard line before a last second, touchdown saving tackle brought him to the turf. Quarterback Zach Holtzclaw (SO) working with a newly installed center, freshman Cade Adams, orchestrated a flawless six play drive, capped off by a powerful 6-yard run from Senior Shawn Thomas to give Dawson County the early lead.
“We played a clean game and the got the ball into (Zach’s) hands,” Head Coach Sid Maxwell said. “We gave him the chance to play, and you can see the results. He did a great job coordinating the offense”
The Dawson County defense also got off to a good start, quickly overpowering the front line of the Spartans and forcing them into a punting situation on their first drive of the night. A missed snap on fourth down and a swarming pack of Tigers resulted in a turnover on downs, giving Dawson the ball in the red zone to start their second drive.
West Hall’s defensive front responded well to the adversity and stuffed the Tigers on a pair of running plays, and an incompletion on third down brought junior kicker Caleb Bonesteel onto the field for a 28-yard field goal attempt, which he put right down the center, to give the Tigers a 10 – 0 lead halfway through the first quarter.
Another three-and-out performance from the Dawson defense, although this time the Spartans got the punt away, gave Holtzclaw a chance to run the Tigers’ two-minute offense as he moved the team rapidly downfield with quick series of swing passes and jet sweeps before Grindle broke through a pair of tackles to take the ball into the end-zone from 26-yards out just as time expired in the first quarter.
West Hall’s offense began to show signs of life on the opening drive of the second quarter as the Spartans managed to cross mid-field for the first time in the game, but the drive bogged down just outside of field goal range, and Holtzclaw led the Tigers off the sidelines for their fourth drive of the first-half.
Once again, the Spartan defense put up a strong effort, holding the line on first and second downs to force the Tigers into a long third and 10. With a solid pocket, Holtzclaw was able to survey the field and found freshman receiver Jaeden Gibson for a 35-yard completion that set-up Thomas’ second 6-yard touchdown run of the night and Dawson County continued to build on their lead.
“We played a lot of freshman tonight,” Maxwell said. “Which is great for the future of the program.”
To their credit, the Spartans, much like their namesakes, never lost their fighting spirit and they mounted their first credible scoring threat of the game, moving the ball effectively on the ground and completing two key passes to get into the Tigers’ red zone with momentum on their side. It was at that point that junior Maximos Moon took over the game with back-to-back sacks that drove West Hall out of field goal range, forcing a West Hall punt, and preserving the shut-out.
For the second time in the half, Holtzclaw used a hurry-up strategy to march the Tigers down the field, this time displaying his arm strength and accuracy as he distributed the ball to Gibson, sophomore Braedon Hubbard, and then delivered a 23-yard strike to senior wide receiver Hunter Barron to put the icing on the cake as the Tigers entered the locker room with a 31 – 0 lead at half-time.
The second half immediately looked as if it would follow the pattern of the first as the West Hall Spartans fumbled on their opening drive, setting up Bonesteel’s second field goal of the night a 26-yard boot that tacked on three more points to Dawson’s lead, but gusty winds and lightning moved rapidly into the area prompting an official time-out and the removal of the teams from the field.
After consulting with the Athletic Directors and coaching staff of both schools along with area weather reports the decision was made to end the game with 7:19 remaining in the third quarter and Dawson County secured the win by a final score of 34 – 0.
“We played well tonight, solid in all three levels of the game,” Maxwell said. “Anytime you can walk away with 34 to nothing is a good win.”
The win moved the Tigers to 3 – 0 overall and left them as the only undefeated team in region 7-AAA, as they prepare to host the Denmark Danes on Sep. 20 in what will the team’s final non-regional game of the season. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.