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FOOTBALL: Tigers unable to steal opening night victory against Cass
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Tigers head coach Sid Maxwell calls a timeout to talk with his offense during the 2021 season opener against Cass High School on Friday, Aug. 20. - photo by Jacob Smith

Senior night for the Dawson County Tigers was spoiled, losing 27-19 in the opening game of the 2021 season to the visiting Cass Colonels. 

“We saw a lot of effort,” Tigers head coach Sid Maxwell said. “We can't make mistakes though. We have a lot of guys that have to play well together, but we knew that going in.”

After going up 16-13 in the third quarter, the Tigers gave up 14 more points while only adding on an additional field goal.In the second half of the contest, Dawson County struggled to control the football, turning the ball over four times.

Senior quarterback Zach Holtzclaw opened the second half with an interception on the Tigers side of the field. However, Holtzclaw immediately responded  on the next drive with a 57-yard touchdown to senior Bailey Dameron with seven minutes left. Zach Holtzclaw finished the day completing 15 of 24 pass attempts for 217 yards, 1 touchdown, along with the interception. Holtzclaw added 35 yards on the ground with the lone touchdown for the Tigers in the first half. 

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Bailey Dameron celebrates his 57-yard receiving touchdown on the sidelines against Cass High School in the 2021 season opener on Friday, Aug. 20. - photo by Jacob Smith
The Tigers fumbled three times in the second half, all by different players. Senior Conley Dyer fumbled with seconds remaining in the third quarter and senior Jackson Grindle fumbled with four and a half minutes remaining in the game. Holtzclaw was the last to fumble on the final drive of the game. Dyer and Grindle combined for 116 yards on the ground on 25 carries. 

After the Grindle fumble, the Tigers defense stopped Cass, only allowing 2:51 to run off the clock. Junior Kevin Haymond picked up the first sack of the year for the Tigers on the drive, pushing the Colonels back further. The defensive stand was punctuated by junior Matt Bennett’s interception on fourth down. 

Holtzclaw kept the drive alive with a seven-yard scramble on third down and then a 16-yard pass to Dameron, leading him out of bounds on a third and long to give the Tigers a shot to score. Maxwell knew the importance of the situation late in the game. 

“We had a chance,” Maxwell said, “we didn't give the game up.”

With no timeouts, the Tigers passed the ball into the red zone with a chance to score to force overtime. On second down, Holtzclaw rolled out to his right to find a receiver deep, but was tackled from behind by a Cass defender and fumbled. Cass secured the ball and the victory. 

“We can't make penalties and we can't lose the ball,” Maxwell said. “We had a lot of fight and made a lot of improvements from two weeks ago.”

The Tigers defense started the game with an interception by sophomore Braden Crane on a trick-play by Cass. Crane’s interception put the Tigers in good field position, but Dawson County failed to score on the opening drive of the season. Sophomore kicker Dominic Leblanc converted two field goal attempts, hitting a 41-yard in his first high school action. 

Dameron was the games' leading receiver, hauling in six catches for 106 yards and a score. At the end of the game, Maxwell said that though the Tigers offense does not have the same play makers at receiver as they did last season (Dakohta Sonnichsen, Tyler Lane and Jaden Gibson), the Tigers still have to go out there and make something happen. 

“We dropped three balls that hit us right in the helmet,” Maxwell said, “We didn't make any tough catches. We made those last year. You need to have playmakers to make plays. But if you don't have playmakers, you still need to make plays.”

The Tigers (0-1) will take their season on the road for the first time next week in a rematch against Flowery Branch (1-0) from last year. The Falcons beat the Tigers 45-4 in a nail-biter of a game last year. The game starts at 7:30 p.m.