The Dawson County Tigers state playoff run ended Friday in the Sweet Sixteen with a 58-13 loss on the road to the defending state champion Cedar Grove Saints.
An injury-depleted defensive front made it a tough night for the Tigers, but Dawson County finished with another successful season.
“When you get to compete with private and city schools, do all we can to close that gap,” said Head Coach Sid Maxwell. “We played probably the best two teams in the state and it was a reality check for the program and where we want to be.”
Coming off a season where 34 seniors graduated, this year’s team fought to continue to raise the bar for the program as a whole.
“A lot of young men stepped up. A lot of first year starters were seniors,” Maxwell said. “They help set the standard for those to follow, keep raising the bar. The challenge for this group was to keep that bar up there. I think they maximized their potential.”
“It was thought by many that this season was supposed to down compared to the two previous seasons,” said Offensive Coordinator Andy LeBlanc. “Losing all the seniors we lost last season, not too many people thought we could accomplish what we did this year.
“Offensively, we replaced all five offensive line starters, three tailbacks, three receivers all of which averaged 18 yards a reception and two fullbacks,” LeBlanc said.
The Saints dominated in the second round playoff game on Nov. 17 and jumped out to a 14-0 lead as they scored on their first two possessions and intercepted Coey Watson’s pass on the Tigers’ second offensive outing of the night.
Dawson County was able to drive from their own 17 with Vaughn Clark picking up valuable yards on the ground and score on a sweep to Ethan Cameron, but could not get the point after.
A fumbled kickoff return for Cedar Grove gave an opportunity to the Tigers that they were unable to use to their advantage.
Cedar Grove was able to score three more times before the half giving the Saints a 35-6 lead.
“You could tell there was no middle defense as we were losing people to injury,” Maxwell said.
The open the third, Dawson County attempted and recovered the onside kick and a sustained drive was cut short with a fumble in the red zone.
The Tiger D came up with a stop but the next possession would end when the Dawson went for it on fourth and 23 with a fake that resulted in an interception.
The Tigers struggled to slow the powerful Saints’ offense but scored again with 10:14 in the game on a 9-yard touchdown reception by Clark.
Peyton Allen’s extra point made the final 58-13.
The Tigers ended the season at 8-4 overall and 5-1 in region play.
Maxwell said that the success and greatness come with continuing to build the program to be competitive.
Under his three year tenure, the program and team have continued to set records and excel in post-season play.
Clark set a single season rushing record with 1,784 yards on 286 attempts.
Senior quarterback Watson went 119 for 188 with 1,725 passing yards—averaging 9.2 yards a pass. He also ran for another 702 yards and surpassed the 100 touchdown mark in his four years at Dawson County.
Ryan Glass finished the year with 760 yards receiving and Cameron had another 457.
“I’m a process guy,” Maxwell said. “The true measure of greatness is building program to be competitive. I feel blessed to be at Dawson and following Dr. Gibbs’ vision of one Dawson.”
Maxwell also credited his staff and their efforts, as did LeBlanc.
“Coach Kenny, Coach Waters, Coach Wilson and Coach Kijanko did a tremendous job developing their positions this year and the players did a great job working hard to get better each week,” LeBlanc said.
“These seniors have done a tremendous job stepping up and continuing to build the program,” LeBlanc said. “This senior class is full of selfless guys that did anything we asked of them to the best of their abilities. I personally will miss being around these guys.”
The team will celebrate with their end of the year banquet on Dec. 10.