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Football season officially kicks-off as Tigers prepare for annual scrimmage
The Dawson County Tigers take part in helmet-only acclimatization practice in preparation for the 2019 season. - photo by Bob Christian

The Dawson County Tigers spent the first official week of football season completing the Georgia High School Associations mandated acclimatization practices. As of July 30, the team transitioned from their voluntary programs and practices of the summer to the typical after school sessions and mandatory attendance.

According to the GHSA bylaws every player must participate in five helmet-only practices during which they are monitored for a variety of heat conditions and hydration before that player can participate in full pads.

The emphasis on safety has always been a part of the culture of Dawson County football according to defensive coach Greg Baloga, but after several high-profile incidents across the country last year, the Tigers continue to stress heat awareness.

“A lot of our kids have been working outside all summer, so this is nothing new,” Baloga said. “It gives us a chance to work with them in a different way and keeps us pointed in the right direction.”

By the end of the week, the majority of the team was in full pads, and the sounds of football filled Tiger stadium as the team continued to prepare for the annual scrimmage with the North Forsyth Raiders on Aug. 9.

Last year’s game set the tone for the season as the Tigers powered their way to a 28-14 victory providing the opening surge for an historic 10-season and a sweet sixteen playoff appearance. As Dawson County recovers from the loss of 28 seniors to graduation, assistant coach Tony Holtzclaw looks to the first game to answer a lot of questions surrounding 2019.

“I think we are going to be a lot better than people think we are going to be,” Holtzclaw said. “We had three padded camps over the summer and those helped a bunch. The kids are young, but they are learning what we need them to learn and they are learning it fast.”

Although not a regular season game, the scrimmage gives the players, coaches and fans the first opportunity to see the team at full speed, and head coach Sid Maxwell treats the game no differently than any other game on the calendar.

“It gives us an opportunity to see who can do what, try out some different packages,” Maxwell said. “We don’t treat it any differently than any other game. It's all about having fun out there.”

Having played host last season, the Tigers will be on the road for this year’s match-up Aug. 9, with kick-off scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at North Forsyth High School.