Dawson County got off to slow start against the visiting East Hall Vikings on Oct. 4 and found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard at the beginning of the second quarter. At that point, trailing 12 – 10 with just over eight minutes until half-time, the Tigers found the gas pedal and reeled off 28 unanswered points to take command of the game on their way to a 52 – 34 victory.
The rally started on Dawson’s first possession of the second quarter when sophomore quarterback Zach Holtzclaw dumped the ball to senior Dakohta Sonnichsen on a wide receiver screen. Starting from his own 43-yard line, Sonnichsen made two tacklers miss and then outran the Vikings down the sideline to put the Tigers in the lead for good.
On the very next play from scrimmage, East Hall quarterback Clete Cooper was picked off by sophomore Braedon Hubbard at the Dawson 40-yard line. The Tigers’ offense trotted back onto the field and quickly chewed through the 60 yards between them and the end-zone. Senior Shawn Thomas punched the ball in for the score from 1-yard out, extending the Dawson lead to 24-12 with 4:19 remaining in the first half.
The defense stepped up to the plate once again, this time led by senior Maximos Moon. Moon crashed through the line on all three plays of the drive, recording a tackle for a loss, forcing a throw away, and tallying a sack on third down to force a quick punt from East Hall.
The Tigers moved quickly towards the red-zone as Thomas popped off two runs over ten yards, and then Holtzclaw found Sonnichsen in the end-zone for a second time to give the Tigers their third touchdown of the quarter and a hefty 19-point lead as the clock crept under two minutes.
Senior D.J. Mitchell took up the defensive effort for the Tigers, harassing Cooper out of the pocket and recording the team’s second sack of the night, once again forcing a quick three-and-out from the Vikings.
A short punt resulted in the ball being spotted at the Tiger’s 43-yard line with only 15 seconds on the clock. Head Coach Sid Maxwell called for a free kick, and senior Caleb Bonesteel teed up the ball for a 67-yard attempt that, if good, would result in three points and, if missed, would give the ball back to the Vikings at the 20-yard line.
Bonesteel’s kick traveled 62-yards, falling just short of the crossbar but well into the back of the end zone, and the Tigers, along with the crowd, gleefully celebrated the effort from the all-state kicker.
Emerging from the locker room, the Tigers received the opening kick-off and went back to work immediately as senior Riley Herndon ripped off a 56-yard touchdown on the first play of the third quarter. Unfortunately, a personal foul in the backfield took the points off the board and pushed the team into a first and 25 that they could not overcome, and Dawson County was forced to punt.
Herndon would not be denied his touchdown. Playing from his free safety position, Herndon jumped the route and snatched his second interception of the game. Turning up-field, with blockers in front of him, he dodged his way through traffic to carry the ball 76-yards to extend the lead to 38 – 12.
The Vikings demonstrated their quick strike ability on the next possession, covering 80-yards with two deep passes for a touchdown to breath some life into their side of the stadium. Whatever reason East Hall had to celebrate, however, was just as quickly squashed when freshman Jaden Gibson took the ensuing kick-off 54-yards for an answering touchdown to keep the lead at 26-points.
East Hall mounted a long drive, aided by a personal foul against the Tigers, only to see it end when Mitchell forced and recovered a fumble in the red-zone for fourth Dawson County take-away of the game.
A three-and-out from the Tigers started the fourth quarter. East Hall quickly drove the length of the field on a series of short passes and scored, but Dawson County returned the favor with a long drive of their own, capped off by an Isaiah Grindle touchdown, his fourth in two games.
The Vikings struck quickly for a second time in the half, scoring in less than a minute on a 68-yard pass through the middle of the Dawson defense, but any hope of a comeback disappeared as the Tigers chewed the clock using a trio of running backs, Thomas, Grindle and Gibson to bring the game to a close on the final score of 52 – 34.
With the win the Tigers remained undefeated in the region at 2 – 0 and extended their overall record to 5 – 1 as they look ahead to Friday when their perennial rivals, the Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans, come to town. The Spartans were responsible for Dawson’s only regular season loss last season and also enter the game undefeated in regional play. Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.