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FOOTBALL: Tigers offense roars through the rain; White County defeated in late-game upset
Dakota Sonnichsen runs past defenders into the endzone on one of his two touchdowns in the 42-35 victory over White County on Oct. 9. Photo by Paige Sweany of Sole Photography.
The Dawson County Tigers pulled off a statement win on Friday night, seizing a 42-35 victory in the last minutes of their game against the White County Warriors. 

Zach Holtzclaw winds up for a pass during the 42-35 victory over White County on October 9. Photo by Paige Sweany of Sole Photography.
Rain persisted throughout the night, but that did not stop quarterback Zach Holtzclaw from his best statistical performance of the season. Rain games typically make for a run-heavy game, but Holtzclaw threw for 362 yards and six touchdowns, bringing his season total to 17 throwing touchdowns on the season. 

“We don’t just throw to one receiver, [Holtzclaw] hits four or five guys,” Head Coach Sid Maxwell said after the game. “[White County] was loading the box hard to stop our running game and Zach made some great throws to put us out on top.”

Four of those touchdowns were caught by Tyler Lane and Dakohta Sonnichsen, who both had two individually. Sonnichsen led all receivers with 153 receiving yards on seven catches and Lane collected 78 receiving yards on three catches.
Dakota Sonnichsen’s second touchdown catch in the 42-35 victory over White County on Oct. 9. Photo by Paige Sweany of Sole Photography.

No touchdown was bigger than the last touchdown when Jaden Gibson pulled in a 77-yard touchdown reception on a third down and long attempt with just 3:50 left to go in the game. Gibson broke the 100-yard receiving mark on the day as well, with 127 receiving yards on five catches. 

“I really thought the pass was going to somebody else, but I looked at [Holtzclaw] and he was rolling out so I knew he had me and I had him,” Gibson said. “After that, I just jumped in the air and made a play on the ball.” 

Gibson also secured an interception in the endzone that secured the Tigers’ second win of the season. Sonnichsen tipped the ball in the air to make the interception possible and Gibson later said that Sonnichsen deserved all the credit. It was one of two red zone interceptions for the Tigers. Braedon Hubbard picked off the Warriors’ quarterback halfway through the second quarter on a touchdown attempt. 

Even though the Warriors scored 35 points, the Tigers defense made big plays when it mattered the most. Right before Gibson’s interception, Cade Adams wrestled through the offensive line for a sack on the quarterback to force a fourth down end zone attempt. On White County’s previous offensive drive, Tripp Caine recovered a fumble in the red zone to give the Tigers the ball back for the eventual game-winning score. 

The Tigers offense got started early on Lane’s first touchdown, and the team took a commanding 14-0 lead with 9:09 left in the second quarter after an 11-yard touchdown catch by Conley Dyer, his only catch of the game. That touchdown was set up by a 74-yard rush down the field for Isaiah Grindle. Grindle had another 100-yard rushing game. He carried the ball 18 times and ran for 110 yards, giving him 404 yards through five games this season. 

Isaiah Grindle runs through the trenches for a chunk of his 110 yards in the 42-35 victory over White County on October 9. Photo by Paige Sweany of Sole Photography.
After the teams traded interceptions with one another, the Warriors scored a 64-yard touchdown on a one-play scoring drive. Just 48 seconds later Sonnichsen scored his first receiving touchdown of the night, giving the Tigers a two score lead again. However, the Warriors ended the half with one more score of their own and the Tigers took a 21-14 lead into half time. 

The Tigers came out of halftime looking like a different team from the first half. White County started with the ball and drove down the field to tie the game. On offense, the ball slipped out of Holtzclaw’s hands for the Warriors’ second interception of the game, which led to another score that would give the Warriors a 28-21 lead. 

The Warriors held the lead for less than four minutes. Holtzclaw responded on the next drive by completing all six of his pass attempts for 60 yards on the drive, one of them Lane’s second receiving touchdown of the game for 29 yards. After White County failed to convert on fourth down, the Tigers regained the lead on a 42-yard touchdown catch by Sonnichsen with 0:47 left in the third quarter. 

A quick score for White County at the beginning of the fourth quarter would leave the game tied for over seven minutes. The Tigers could not move the ball on their offensive possession and the Warriors would methodically drive down the field until the Caine fumble recovery. Gibson scored the game-winning touchdown the next possession and his interception would seal the Warriors’ fate. 

Caleb Bonesteel kicks off during the 42-35 victory over White County on Oct. 9. Photo by Paige Sweany of Sole Photography.
This loss was White County’s first of the season, bringing their record to 4-1. Going into Friday’s game, they were ranked as high as #5 in the 3-A division. 

The victory was the Tigers second of the season and people on the sidelines were overheard saying that this could have been a game for the region championship. But Maxwell said the team would not entertain that thought at all. 

After the game Maxwell said the team’s tough non-region schedule gave them the character needed to persevere and win the game.

Dawson County has their second and last bye of the season next Friday. They will battle Gilmer County on Oct. 23 at home in their second region game of the year.