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Football awards banquet caps off historic season
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Sixth grade quarterback Sawyer Bearden addresses the audience as he thanks the coaching staff on behalf of his team at the 2018 Dawson County Football Awards Banquet on Dec. 16. - photo by Bob Christian

The Dawson County football program hosted their annual awards banquet on Dec. 16 in the Performing Arts Center of the Dawson County High School, honoring members of all six Dawson County football teams.

The ceremony was a testament to the “bottom-up” philosophy envisioned by Head Coach Sid Maxwell.

“Four years ago, there were two teams at the high school level. A JV team that was a mix of freshmen and other classes and a varsity team,” Maxwell said. “Today we have 29 coaches on staff and a sixth grade, seventh grade, eighth grade, freshmen, JV and varsity program. Six teams.”

With each team running the same offensive and defensive schemes, the benefits of an integrated One Dawson program became apparent through the course of the afternoon as athlete after athlete was called forward and acknowledged for their accomplishments over the course of this year’s historic season.

The afternoon started by recognizing the members of the sixth grade team. Coached to a 5–2–1 record over the regular season, each member of the team was presented with a maroon and gold dog tag embossed with the emblem of the Dawson County Tigers.

“Each member of the seventh grade team got theirs last year,” said seventh grade Coach Terry Haymond. “Kind of like a membership badge. It’s something that we plan to give to each sixth grader from now on in addition to any awards they may receive.”

After being handed his dog tag, sixth grade quarterback Sawyer Bearden took the stage to thank the coaching staff and present them with cards on behalf of the team.

“I liked being around my friends,” Bearden said. “We would practice right after school to get it done and we had a lot of free time.”

Bearden’s father, David, added his support for the program that has been put in place at Dawson County as he commented on the unique balance between family and football that has been built over the last few years.

“They would practice right after school let out so there was no need to drive him around town, all we had to do was pick him up around five o’clock and bring him home” David Bearden said. “I feel that he could step onto the high school field, other than the physical part at the moment, and run the offense and that’s really the goal, to get them into ninth and 10th grade having seen the same system all the way through.”

The seventh grade team was next on the stage as Haymond presented the team with their Mountain Football League runners-up trophies.

Jacob Baloga, who finished his third year with the Tigers program, talked about his expectations for next season while securely holding his trophy to his chest.

“It should help that we have all seen the same stuff,” Baloga said. “I just want to do better than last year.”

Closing out the first half of the day’s event, eighth grade coaches Ryan Maledor and Trevor Duba handed out small replicas of the famed Vince Lombardi Trophy to the members of their team to celebrate their Super Bowl II victory and championship season.

The event transitioned into honoring the high school level players with the announcement and presentation of 7-AAA regional awards, varsity letters and pins indicating multiple years lettering in the program.

After acknowledging and thanking the parents, volunteers and managers that assisted the program through the year, individual awards were presented to grades nine and up.

Andrew Burt was named the ninth grade team’s Most Valuable Defensive Player by Coach Mike Massey and Zach Holtzclaw received the team’s Most Valuable Offensive Player award, presented by Head Coach Kevin Grigsby.

Grigsby then presented the Coaches Award to Conley Dyer and the Top Performer trophy went to Braedon Hubbard. Cason Hammond was named the Most Improved player of 2018 by Duba.

Coaches Brent Cox, Andy LeBlanc and Derek Waters handed out awards for the junior varsity team.

Isaiah Grindle took home Most Valuable Offensive Player, while Kinkade Weaver nabbed Most Valuable Defensive Player honors.

In the Most Improved category, Max Moon won the award for offensive performance and Trip Caine won for his contributions on defense.

Maxwell presented “the first and most important award” for Academic Excellence to senior Ethan Cameron in acknowledgement of his 4.0 or higher GPA throughout the year.

Maxwell went on to present the Iron Will award to Walker Cox who fought through a should injury last year to return this season only to suffer a season-ending leg injury during the year.

Presented by team volunteer and banquet emcee Russell Davis, the Sandy Walls Award is given annually to a player who gives extra effort with a will to win while displaying integrity and respect. This year’s recipient was Allen McLean. McLean picked up his second piece of hardware on the day as he was also presented with the 2018 Spirit Award.

The Golden Helmet Award was presented to senior SeVaughn Clark, who stepped up and took over the role of quarterback this season and led the team to a 10–2 record and a second-round playoff appearance.

Eli Bearden and Wyatt Haynes were presented with Tiger Award for offense and defense, respectively, while Shawn Thomas collected the award from Coach LeBlanc for Most Improved player on offense and Adam Maner was named Most Improved on defense by Coach Cox.

One team member from each unit was named as the Top Performer of 2018 and mirrored the 7-AAA first team awards announced in early December.

The special teams award went to kicker Caleb Bonesteel who connected on 42 of 42 extra points and went 5 for 6 on field goals but was most valuable for his skill with the onside kick.

Leading receiver Ryan Glass was the top performer in the offensive skill category and Justin Butler picked up the award for offensive lineman.

Jason Browning, with 31 total tackles, three sacks and a fumble recovery on the season was named the top performer on the defensive line, and the linebacker award went to Brody Howell who put together a season that included 61 tackles and 2 interceptions.

Dahkota Sonnichsen rounded out the top performers, winning the award in the athlete category with his performance as the team’s kick return specialist during the year.

Two players were named Most Valuable Player on defense as Logan Barnes and Zac Baloga were acknowledged for their outstanding performances during 2018. Barnes led the team in tackles with 115 and interceptions with three and Baloga anchored a rock-solid defensive line getting to opposing quarterbacks for 10 sacks over the season.

Kamara, in his first and final year with the Dawson County Tigers, was named Most Valuable Player on offense after amassing 1,418 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.

As “the player that gave us the best chance to win,” Clark was named the team’s Most Valuable Player by Maxwell to finish up the day’s ceremony.

In his closing remarks, Maxwell once again thanked the community, parents, volunteers and coaches, but reserved a special comment for his teams.

“I will not score one touchdown, catch one pass, or make one tackle,” Maxwell said. “The players do all the work and they deserve this recognition.”