After last year’s heartbreaking double overtime loss to the Spartans, the Dawson County High School Tigers have been looking forward to this year’s visit since it first appeared on the calendar, and though this year’s version of the Spartans came into Tiger Stadium sporting a record of 1-2 on the season, nobody on the home team was taking the game lightly.
“They have the potential to put it together at any time,” said Coach Tony Kijanko. “They have a bona-fide blue chipper in number 87.”
The number 87 he referred to is West Hall’s defensive end, senior Corey Dupree. Standing along the line at a height of six feet and five inches and weighing in at a slim 215 pounds, Dupree possessed the strength and speed to be a disruption throughout the game, and early on looked as if he would, in fact, be the difference maker.
Bringing immediate and heavy pressure to Tiger quarterback Savaughn Clark on almost every play of the first drive, Dupree was very effective in shutting down the Dawson County offense and ended the Tigers’ opening drive by forcing senior running back Ahmad Kamara to fumble in the red zone.
The Tiger defense, led by seniors Zac Baloga and Logan Barnes, gave little ground and forced a quick punt to get the ball back from the Spartans. Once again, the offense could do very little to stop Dupree and the drive stalled deep in enemy territory. After a Caleb Bonesteel 35-yard field goal attempt slid just outside the upright, the first quarter wound to a close with the score tied at zero.
Eating yardage in small bursts, the West Hall Spartans moved the ball effectively down the field and capped off an almost five minute drive with the game’s first touchdown in the beginning of the second quarter. As the Tigers took to the field for their third drive of the game, the fans sensed that this was the drive that would make or break the game and the stadium filled with the wild cheering of students and parents alike to push their team down the field.
Either the roar of the crowd or the fact that the Tigers started running a series of quick sweeps and screens away from Dupree worked its magic because on the drive’s third play Kamara dashed 45 yards along the sideline for the Tigers’ first touchdown of the night. Bonesteel’s kicking woes continued as he missed the extra point bringing the score to 7 for the Spartans and 6 for the Tigers as halftime approached
Excellent special teams play on the ensuing kick-off pinned West Hall deep in their own territory and the Tiger defense began to get pressure and penetration of their own as senior defensive end Allen Mclean recorded his first sack of the season to force the Spartans into a punting situation.
“We gave up 21 points on three special team turn-overs in our game last week,” said West Hall Head Coach Krofton Montgomery prior to the game. “We worked all week on solidifying that part of our game.”
Unfortunately for the Spartans, the extra practice did not pay off for them on this night as the snap came in low to the punter and he wound up falling on the ball to recover the fumble resulting in a turn-over on downs that the Tigers immediately turned into points with a Clark run straight up the middle. Relying on Clark again for the 2-point conversion and the Tigers took the lead with just over half of the second quarter remaining.
The Tiger defense continued to build momentum as the game progressed and the Spartans were unable to muster much of anything on their ensuing possession. Having moved the ball just into Tigers territory the Spartans opted to go for it on a fourth and one only to run into the brick wall that is the defensive line of Dawson County.
After the turn-over on downs the Tigers continued to move the ball away from Dupree’s side of the field and continued to reap the benefits: This time a beautifully lofted, deep pass to senior wide-receiver Ethan Cameron for another 35-yard quick strike touchdown. Bonesteel found the center for the PAT and at the two minute mark of the first half the Tigers moved out to a two-touchdown lead.
The two-minute offense put together by the Spartans was able to move the ball swiftly down the field using a good combination of sideline passes and time-outs to control the clock and it looked like West Hall was going to be able to add points to the board, at least in the form of a field goal, when Barnes stepped in front of the intended receiver and grabbed his first of two interceptions on the day to end the drive deep in Tiger territory and take the game into halftime.
Having opted to receive the kick for the second half, the West Hall Spartans prepared to take to the field when disaster struck a second time as the ball came loose during the run-back and was recovered by the Tigers setting up another short field for Dawson County.
Once again taking advantage of the lack of real estate the Tigers quickly worked the ball inside the 15-yard line of the Panthers and Cameron demonstrated his speed on a 14-yard jet sweep across the goal line for his second touchdown of the game. The extra point crossed the bar and the Tigers took a commanding lead early in the second half by the score of 28–7.
The resulting series of downs did not go well for the Panthers as the Dawson County defense picked up right where they left off, swarming to the ball and batting down passes. The West Hall Spartans could get nothing going and were once again forced into a punting situation that ended badly.
With what seemed to be every lineman available the Tigers blocked punt and once again set their offense up inside West Hall territory to start the drive, and three plays later Clark was pushing the ball across the goal line for his second rushing touchdown of the night to bring the Tigers to a 28-point lead with over a quarter left to play.
On what would be their last drive of the third quarter the Spartans managed to move the ball into Tiger territory, but the defense held solid and forced the Spartans back across the 50 and into punt formation once more. This time the punt went off without a hitch and the Tigers settled into offense and the business of chewing clock.
Using almost six minutes of the third quarter the Tigers worked their way down the field until Cameron broke loose once again for a 17-yard run through the Spartan secondary to add some icing to the cake with his second rushing touchdown, and third touchdown overall, on the night to bring the score to 42–7 as the third quarter closed.
The high point of the fourth quarter was a blocked kick by Dupree of the Spartans that resulted in West Hall’s second touchdown of the night, but other than a late game field goal from Bonesteel the scoring was done for the night with the Dawson County Tigers notching another dominating win bringing them to 3–0 for the season.
The Tigers will take their undefeated record on the road for a game against the Denmark Danes in Alpharetta on Sept. 14 with kick-off scheduled for 7:30 p.m.