The Dawson County Tigers advanced to the second round of the Class AAA state playoffs Friday with a convincing win at home over the Hart County Bulldogs.
Despite a slow opening, the Tigers picked up steam in the first quarter and exerted their will on the way to the 49-14 win.
The Tigers and Bulldogs traded early three and outs and fumbles before Dawson County would sustain a drive that started at the Bulldog 46 thanks to pressure on the prior Hart County punt.
Coey Watson completed early to Ethan Cameron and Vaughn Clark picked up a quick 9 yards on his first run on the drive.
Watson and Clark would continue to exchange running opportunities behind the Tigers’ offensive line who were able to hold the advantage up front.
At first and goal, Clark would come just shy of the end zone and Watson ran in the first of his three touchdowns of the night with 4:47 in the first period. The Tigers went for the 2-pt. conversion but could not convert.
The Bulldogs had a sustained drive on the next possession that began with a kickoff return by Jerrontay Morrison to their own 35.
Quarterback O’neal Anderson would find Johnathan Dekle and a personal foul on the Tigers would give the Bulldogs extra yardage with first and goal at the 8.
Logan Brumbelow got a sack on Luke Lee who came in at quarterback as the Bulldogs alternated play callers regularly. With third and 13, Hart County was able to score on a pass to Jalen Brown with 1:57 in the first and the PAT gave them the lead at 7-6.
Dawson County’s next drive would continue with dominance up front and Clark finding the openings. Watson completed to Ryan Glass just after the end of the first quarter and a late hit took the Tigers to the 16.
Watson’s keeper took Dawson to the 5 and Clark would run it in. Another 2-point conversion failed and the Tigers led 12-7 with 11:35 in the second quarter.
Hart’s ensuing drive was abruptly halted by a Brumbelow interception giving the Tigers a short field at the 50, but this time Dawson County was unable to get anything going.
The Dawson defense went back to work with a Jason Browning sack and another near interception.
This time the Tigers started at the 47 and Watson found Glass for a 50-yard touchdown. Watson went 9-for-13 on the night for 123 yards through the air.
He added another 79 on the ground.
Glass had 74 yards receiving.
Peyton Allen’s point after made it 19-7 with 5:33 until half.
The next Hart County drive was backed up after a Taylor Swofford sack and a flag on the Bulldogs. They were forced to put it away.
At half it was 19-7, Dawson.
Dawson opened the second half with a drive that saw Clark carry it five times. He had 260 yards rushing with three touchdowns in the game.
The Tigers got to the one foot line on a Watson keeper, but with first and goal Watson ran it in and the Allen extra point made it 26-7.
Hart County drove the field on the next possession and the Tigers had stops by Swofford, Logan Barnes, Brody Howell and Nate Umberger.
Anderson carried it near the goal line and lost the ball. Dawson recovered and began at their own 2 after another personal foul backed them up.
Unable to get out of their own territory, the Tigers punted the ball into the back of one its own players and the Bulldogs used it to their advantage. Anderson found P.J. Rucker from 5 yards out to make it 26-14.
The Bulldogs would not score again.
Dawson quickly drove the field with two completions to Cameron and Clark’s running. A completion to Hunter Barron would put the Tigers at the 4-yard line and Watson added another on a keeper.
With 1:06 in the third, it was 33-14.
The next Bulldog drive was short-circuited by a Noah Brock interception and the Tigers took over at the 29.
Clark would cap off the drive with a 33-yard touchdown run. The point after took it to 40-14 in favor of the Tigers.
A three-and-out for Hart County would give Dawson the ball again at their own 21. That’s when Clark broke free for a 79-yard touchdown run—his third touchdown of the game.
The Dawson defense would finish off the Bulldogs with sacks from Zac Baloga and Jacob Frady as well as a safety.
The win sends the Tigers to the Sweet Sixteen of the Class AAA state tournament to face Cedar Grove (11-0, 7-0) who defeated Adairsville 48-13 at Godfrey Stadium Friday.
Dawson County will travel Nov. 17 for a 7:30 p.m. kick in Ellenwood.
The Tigers are now 8-3 overall.