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Football: Tigers fall short in 2020 season opener against Cass High School
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The Tigers football team break through their banner at the first game of the 2020 high school football season on Sept. 4. - photo by Jacob Smith

In the first game of the 2020 high school football season, the Dawson County Tigers lost against the 4A Cass Colonels 23-7. 

At one point it had seemed that maybe they would not be able to have any fall football season this year, but Tigers Head Coach Sid Maxwell said he was thankful that they were comfortable enough to send the team onto the field. 

“It feels great to be back out here,” Maxwell said. “All that matters is that we keep getting a little better until we get to region play.”

The first half was marked by penalties and unlucky turnovers for the Tigers. Quarterback Zach Holtzclaw had two big completions that put the Tigers on the opponent's side of the field. 

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Defensive Line coach Chess Hamby breaks down game footage midgame with his players in the 2020 season opener at Cass High School on Sept. 4. - photo by Jacob Smith

However, several penalties in a row nearly erased all of the yards gained on the pass by the Tigers. A fumble on a handoff from Holtzclaw to Dawson County running back Isaiah Grindle was recovered by Cass. 

The Tigers defense was able to stop the Colonels during a 3rd and goal situation, but another penalty awarded Cass a first down and they scored one of their two first-half touchdowns after. 

The offense was able to move the ball and the defense came up with big plays when they needed it. Grindle ran the ball well all half, with two rushes over 10 yards. 

Kevin Haymond, #54, came up with an interception with only 30 seconds left in the second quarter. A few short completions put the Tigers in field goal range, but kicker Caleb Bonesteel came up short, and the Tigers went into the second half down 14-0. 

The second half started off well for the Tigers. Cass fumbled on their second offensive possession and the Tigers received, only to go three-and-out on their offensive series. Cass would then march the field and tally a field goal, making the score 17-0. 

After a touchback, Holtzclaw and Tyler Lane, #88, teamed up for a long reception to get the Tigers to midfield. Another penalty by Cass gave the offense another first down. After two incompletions in the endzone, Holtzclaw and Lane linked up again on a 35 yard pass to give the Tigers the first touchdown of their season. 

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Dawson County quarterback Zach Holtzclaw rolls out of the pocket in the endzone for a pass attempt in a game against Cass High School on Sept. 4, 2020. - photo by Jacob Smith

The Tigers began picking up momentum after Logan Berry, #46, and Hunter Sams, #56, linked up and completed the first sack of the season. A fumbled punt return by Dakota Sonnichsen, #1, put the defense back on the field, where Cass tallied their second field goal of the half, making the score 20-7 until the end of the third quarter. 

Sonnichsen started the fourth quarter off with a bang, converting a fake punt turned rushing attempt for a first down. The Tigers march down the field with another Grindle rushing first down and Lane receiving first down. 

Though the offense was in Bonesteel’s field goal range, time was running out and could not convert a fourth down, unable to put any more points on the scoreboard. 

Cass scored another field goal late in the fourth quarter and played defensively for the rest of the game. The game ended 23-7, with the Tigers in a strong position to score again, but unable to execute. 

“I wish we could have executed better, but this is the first time these guys have been in contact since last year,” Maxwell said after the game. “We didn’t have Spring ball. We didn’t have anything over the summer and this is our first contact practice. This is something to build on.” 

The Tigers had a few players trying out new positions after several players were quarantined due to COVID-19 exposure. Maxwell said this is something that players will have to get used to this season. He added that this will definitely not be the last game that players will be forced to sit out while quarantining. 

The 0-1 Tigers will play their home opener Friday, Sept.11, against the 4A Flowery Branch Falcons. The Falcons lost to St. Pius X Catholic High School 38-28 on Sept. 4