The Dawson County Tigers completed the 45-34 upset victory at Adairsville High School on Friday night to move onto the second round of the GHSA 3-A state tournament.
After starting running back Isaiah Grindle injured his right leg against North Hall, junior running back Conley Dyer stepped into the starting role with ease. He ran for 196 yards and two touchdowns in the victory against Adairsville.
“We challenged him this week to step up,” Tigers head coach Sid Maxwell said after the game. “He has shown in the past being able to do that cause he runs so hard.”
Dyer fumbled on his first carry of the game, but was encouraged by his teammates that if he kept going, good things would happen.
“They said to just keep turning the page,” Dyer said after the game. “Shake it off. It happens. I got nervous. It was my first time running the ball in a playoff game.”
All of Dawson County’s first half points happened early but the Tigers were down 24-21 at halftime after leading 21-3 with just 6:41 left in the second quarter. Adairsville scored three touchdowns to end the half, but Dawson County outscored them in the second half to secure victory.
“We settled down,” Maxwell said when asked about how the team was feeling at halftime. “Our defense was getting disarrayed but Coach Fowler did a good job of calming them down and making sure that we get lined up and get our eyes right.”
Tigers quarterback Zach Holtzclaw threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a 1-yard touchdown as well. He found Jaden Gibson and Dakohta Sonnichsen for 11 of his 12 completions and 223 of his 232 yards. Gibson caught five passes for 113 receiving yards and Sonnichsen caught six passes for 112 receiving yards and a touchdown on a 75-yard bomb for Holtzclaw. Max Moon caught a 9-yard touchdown for his only reception of the game.
Defensively, the Tigers stepped up to make big plays throughout the game. Hayden McKinney intercepted the ball on Adairsville’s first possession of the second half, which led to Sonnichsen’s touchdown on the next play.
After an Adairsville touchdown and onside kick recovery, Kevin Haymond sacked the quarterback on third down. Adairsville attempted a fake punt pass attempt, but the Tigers sacked the punter who fumbled the football. Cade Adams scooped the ball up and ran into the end zone for the final score of the game.
The (6-5) Tigers will continue their season next Friday as they travel to Oconee High School in Watkinsville, Ga., to face the (10-0) Warriors. The winner of that game will move onto the quarterfinals.
“I don’t know anything about [Oconee], I just know they’re good,” Maxwell said. “When there’s only 16 teams left, nothing is gonna be easy.”