The Dawson County High School football team opened regional play on Sept. 28 with a visit to their cross-county rivals the Lumpkin County Indians and the results were nothing short of domination. The Tigers held the Indians to 80-yards of total offense and scored 17 points in the first 4:15 on their way to a 45 – 0 nothing victory.
Senior Shawn Thomas set the tone on the opening kick-off, returning the ball nearly 70-yards to the Lumpkin 21-yard line. From there, the drive stalled as the Tigers probed the Indian’s defensive front with a pair of runs and tested the secondary with an incomplete pass into the end-zone.
Kicker Caleb Bonesteel (JR) put the Tigers on the board with a 36-yard field goal, his only field goal of the game. Bonesteel finished the game with 9 total points after tacking on 6 extra-points over the remainder of the contest.
Lumpkin’s first possession of the game resulted in negative yardage as the defensive line pushed running back BoJack Dowdy backwards on three successive carries and the Indians were forced to punt, leading to one of the more bizarre plays of the season.
The punt left the kicker’s foot ugly as he shanked it straight up into the air and on a backwards trajectory. Once it hit the turf, it took an incredibly favorable Dawson County bounce, rolling to a stop on the Indian’s 16-yard line where it was surrounded by players from both teams.
No one touched the football, and the referees did not whistle the play dead and, sensing an opportunity, senior Riley Herndon snatched the ball from the ground, spun around a defender and trotted untouched into the end-zone for the Tiger’s first touchdown of the night.
“He (the Lumpkin County defender) just looked at me and didn’t do anything,” Herndon said. “I knew the rules, and the play wasn’t blown dead, so I took off with it.”
On the ensuing drive, Lumpkin County went with a bit of trickery as they attempted a half-back pass, but junior cornerback Tripp Caine read the play from the beginning and stepped in front of the ball for an interception.
One play later, sophomore quarterback Zach Holtzclaw found senior Hunter Barron in the back corner of the end-zone and the Tigers were up 17 – 0 with 7:49 remaining in the first quarter.
From that point forward, the first half turned into the Isaiah Grindle show, as the junior running back scored on the next three Tiger drives poking it in twice on the ground, from 11-yards and 34-yards out, and once through the air on a beautiful 23-yard pass and catch from Holtzclaw.
“We played like a brotherhood tonight,” Grindle said. “This is all on the offensive line. They made the holes. I just ran through them.”
Holtzclaw finished the game with a 75 percent completion ratio having hit 6 of 8 passing attempts for 136-yards and two touchdowns. His favorite receiver on the night was junior Dakohta Sonnichsen who gathered in three passes for 93-yards.
Heading to the locker room with a more than comfortable 38 – 0 lead, head coach Sid Maxwell acknowledged that it would be a good time to give some of the team’s younger players an opportunity to take the field.
“We are going to slow it down a bit in the second half,” Maxwell said. “We just have to keep playing our game and stay on top of them.”
Freshman Keegan Stover made his regular season debut at quarterback to start the second half and immediately established the running game as fellow freshman, Nic Baloga pounded the rock up the middle on a pair of tough runs.
Stepping back for his first regular season pass, Stover connected with sophomore Conley Dyer on a short, outside pass that Dyer turned into something special as he juked and bounced through the Lumpkin secondary to take it to the house for the Tigers’ final touchdown of the night.
With the win the Tigers move to 1 – 0 in the region and 4 – 1 overall as they prepare to start a three-game homestand with the East Hall Vikings first on the list on Oct. 4. Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30p.m.