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FOOTBALL: Turnovers haunt Tigers in home loss to Stephens County
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Sawyer Bearden makes a diving catch during the game against Stephens County. - photo by Rio White

No matter how any two football teams match up, one element can turn the game on its head — turnovers. A couple of early miscues by Dawson County gave visiting Stephens County all it needed to establish an early lead on the way to a 38-10 defeat of the Tigers.

With Walker Massey and Sawyer Bearden filling in at quarterback for Davis Glass — who had a minor injury but is set to return next game — the Dawson offense looked to establish the ground game as it did the previous week against North Hall.

After a few rushes on the opening drive, an interception caught by the visitors on a contested pass by Massey set the tone for a challenging night for the Tigers offense. 

“Getting the two [early] turnovers definitely put us in the hole,” head coach Sid Maxwell said. “Davis got banged up last week so we tried to get other people involved. It didn’t quite turn out how we’d like but it's a building process [and] a great opportunity to get reps for those guys.”

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Though the Tigers did struggle to establish momentum during the first half, there were a few opportunities opened up through the field position gained by the return team. Elijah Smith had another productive night returning kicks and punts while Christian Webb had a massive return of his own.

Capitalizing on that field position proved to be a tall order against the visiting defense, who kept Dawson scoreless until deep into the third quarter.

The remainder of the first half saw Dawson’s defense improve, despite giving up a second touchdown on a tipped pass that landed in the hands of a player far from who it was intended for.

Proof of that improvement showed on the next Stephens drive, with the Tigers stopping the Indians on a fourth and goal attempt.

But a second interception caught by the visitors gave them another scoring opportunity that they would convert, putting the Tigers down three scores at halftime. 

To Maxwell, the defensive effort against Stephens was more competitive than Dawson’s previous loss against Lambert.

“In this [game] we were actually in the area but we just didn’t come up and compete for the ball,” Maxwell said. “For the most part we were in much better position to make a play than the previous [game] against Lambert.”

The Tigers would get on the scoreboard in the third quarter through a Dominic LeBlanc field goal following long passes caught by LeBlanc and Bearden. 

But three more scores by the Indians would put the game out of reach before Dawson scored a late consolation touchdown on a pass from freshman Dylan Edwards to Declan Rhodes. 

Maxwell exuded calm when describing the tough night for the team and the challenges of the region schedule ahead.

“Whenever you’re playing for the first time on Friday night and get your opportunity, you're going to be nervous. You’re going to make mistakes and that comes with experience,” Maxwell said. “It was a chance for us to get people out here and build for the region play and that’s what we’re all about. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The Tigers will be looking to regroup during the bye week before beginning their region 7-3A slate on Friday, Sept. 23, in a home game against West Hall.