The Dawson County High School varsity Tiger soccer team traveled about 1,000-miles last week on the team's quest for a state championship.
Coach Jed Lacey's team traveled to Savannah on May 6 for a match-up with No. 10-ranked Islands High School (14-3-2) and came up with a 2-0 victory.
Unfortunately, the season came to an end when, on May 9, the Tigers lost 2-1 at Decatur.
The Bulldogs are ranked No. 8 and advanced to the Final Four and a match-up against Calhoun (19-0-1).
The Yellow Jackets are currently ranked No. 2 in Class AAA.
Lacey's teams have been to the state playoffs seven out of the last eight years. It was Dawson County's first Elite Eight appearance.
"Our guys have worked so hard to get here," Lacey said. "Man I wanted it for these kids. I can't believe it is over."
The May 6 game saw the Tigers make the long journey to Savannah.
Defense dominated the first half, as both teams went into the locker room deadlocked at zero.
With just over 14 minutes left, Brandon Lund put Dawson County ahead with a blast past the Islands goalie to take a 1-0 lead.
It was Lund's 16th goal of the season.
The Tigers added another goal with 2:21 remaining on a shot by Randy Schultz from a pass by Lund to put Dawson County in front 2-0.
The goal was Shultz's fifth of the season.
"Islands was all they were advertised to be. They are good team. We gave them all we had and we got the job done. This was a whole team effort. We were able to get all our players in the game and they all did very well. I think Islands was surprised to see how fast were," Lacey said.
The Dawson County defense was superb, according to Lacey.
The Tigers were led by Josh Sage, Timmy Moody, Dalton Edwards, David Velasquez and keeper Ty Anglin. Anglin recorded his seventh shutout of the season.
"Our defense held off all attacks that Islands could come up with," Lacey said.
With very little time left in the match Edwards made a beautiful save going behind Anglin, who had come out to block a shot and kicked the ball off the line. It was a possible game saving play by Edwards.
"We had some players step up off the bench," Lacey said. "We were still playing without Sal Mendoza. We had to have the sophomores step up and boy did they."
Lacey praised the play of Cole Dennis, Patrick Moody and Ty Lawson.
"These three guys came through with huge minutes for us," he said.
In the Elite Eight game on May 9, at Decatur (10-8-1), the host Bulldogs scored two first half goals to lead 2-0 at intermission.
The 2 p.m. start made the heat and humidity a factor in the game.
Decatur scored first on a corner kick that found the head of a Bulldog who deposited the ball past the goal line for a 1-0 advantage.
With 8:08 remaining before halftime, the Bulldogs struck again for a 2-0 lead.
Mendoza cut the Decatur lead in half with a goal at the 25:32 mark on an assist from Lund that made the score 2-1.
However, the Tigers just could not find a way to score during the last 25 minutes.
"The sun and heat killed us," Lacey said. "Decatur had to play in it but they had the crowd, the turf and we did not play our best game. We let the elements get to us and it cost us."
Dawson will graduate several seniors this season: Lund, Sage, Schultz, Velasquez, Edwards, Jose Zuniga and Mendoza.
"I feel so bad for these seniors. They made playoffs every year they were in high school. This is hands down the best that has ever come through here. I will miss this group of kids leaving us," Lacey said about his senior class.
Dawson County finished the season with a 12-4-2 overall record and a No. 5-ranking in Class AAA.