The Dawson County Tigers football team has a unique task in front of them.
For the first time in the last six years, there is a chance that all spring workouts and games could get cancelled with delays and suspensions going into the summer and potentially the fall.
Head Coach Sid Maxwell said that he knows this will be uncharted territory, but he has faith that his system and game plan will keep his team on the same page.
“For me, you hope your sixth year going in, your young men have the concept of offense, defense and special teams,” Maxwell said. “The learning curve should be in place as opposed to a new coach coming in.”
Maxwell said because of that, strength and conditioning will be his biggest concern once his team gets back together. He will be losing both starting tackles on his offensive line for next season, but said that there are simple ways for the guys still on the team to fill their shoes.
“Just staying in some type of shape would help,” Maxwell said. “You can do body weight exercises. I tag them every day with workouts, and I can track them and see if they’re doing it. You see the guys who want to get better.”
Maxwell said that if the offensive line can make big enough holes, even he could run through them. Luckily, he has a crop of four running backs that he is looking to bring back.
He said to expect Jackson Grindle, Nick Baloga and Conley Dyer to get in the rotation as running back this season. Isiah Grindle, who was the number two running back last year, will take over lead spot from graduating senior, Shawn Thomas.
“I’m excited about [Grindle],” Maxwell said. “He’s not very big but he’s very explosive for his body type. He can change a game with first step speed.”
The vast majority of Maxwell’s wide receivers are returning. He said they should be able to pick up right where they left off.
Also returning for Maxwell are his two quarterbacks, Zach Holtzclaw and Jaden Gibson. Maxwell said to expect both quarterbacks to be used in the offense this year. Holtzclaw will primarily be used as a pocket passer, with Gibson being used as a multi-type running quarterback in different unique formations.
“When we have games we need to win, it’s nice to have flexibility to go from a pocket passer like Holtzclaw, to a running quarterback like Gibson,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell said there will be more guys starting this season on defense who have never gotten consistent varsity playing time rather than on offense, though he knows a lot can change for teenaged boys within a couple of months.
“Testosterone starts to change,” Maxwell said. “I’m sure we’ll be surprised with some guys coming back in after not seeing them. They grow up and it makes a big difference for them.”
Maxwell said he thought the junior varsity team played solid on defense all last season and knows that Defensive Coordinator Bradley Fowler will have them ready to play.
“It’s easy,” he said. “On defense, you find those guys who aren’t afraid to hit and run to the ball. You’ve got to be able to adapt to multiple fronts. You can form like an amoeba to any team you play against. No matter what, we have to stop the run to create some turnovers.”
Aside from offense and defense, Maxwell said that he has the least worry about special teams. Caleb Bonesteel only missed one extra point last season, and Maxwell said that it was actually good and even the referee knew he was wrong after calling it a miss.
“Bonesteel is as about as automatic as you can get,” Maxwell said. “I’m gonna take three from Bonesteel every time.”
As of right now, the earliest the team will be able to get out onto the field is July 1, he said, explaining that he’s already talked to Pickens High School and North Forsyth High School about rescheduling their scrimmages to over the summer.
Maxwell talks to his coordinators every day. He said everyone is on the same page about using the same strategy from last year and every other year before to go into this season.
On top of maintain their personal physical fitness, he hopes his players are able to focus on their online work to make sure they are eligible to play for him in the fall.
“I hope they’re doing their schoolwork,” he said. “The discipline to have a tv or video game in front of them while doing an assignment is gonna be incredibly tough, but kids are smarter than you give them credit for.”
Maxwell said he expects a lot of guys to step up and be leaders once the Tigers are back on the field, but that he never names a captain until the start of region play.
I don’t look for a leader by how great they are or how popular they are,” Maxwell said. “I pick a captain by when I put a crown on your head, that your chin never falls so that the crown stays on. On or off the field.”
Maxwell’s junior varsity and ninth grade programs will have a big shift in them this upcoming season as well. They will be joining the 7A-Forsyth and Gainesville sub-varsity program so that they will be able to start playing consistent opponents. He said it will be much easier than scrambling to find 3-A schools in the area willing to play junior varsity or ninth grade games.
Now that the Tigers football program has been under Maxwell for six seasons, he said the team is going to start to realize that it’s harder to remain a successful program than it is to become one.
“Our main focus is working together and trying to help the team,” Maxwell said. “You’re not a part of a program, you are the program. Our team chemistry is gonna have to be like lightning in a jar.”
Keep up with Dawson County News to get the latest on what transpires with the Tigers football team during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 outbreak.