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“I could not be prouder”: Dawson County’s memorable football season ends after first-round playoff loss
The Dawson County football team comes out onto the field before their playoff defeat to Monroe Area Saturday, Nov. 12. For many seniors, it would be their final game. - photo by Rio White

Late in the Dawson County football team’s first-round playoff game against Monroe Area on Saturday, Nov. 12, looks of exhaustion began to form on the frigid faces of Dawson players as the visiting Purple Hurricanes extended their lead. 

But despite the score, the players looked anything but defeated.

While the Tigers would ultimately fall 35-13 to a tenacious Monroe team, an experienced Tigers group poured their hearts into a game that would mark the final time many of them would don a Dawson uniform. 

“They’re a pleasure to coach,” head coach Sid Maxwell said. “The [seniors] loved what they did and they did everything with a passion. I could not be prouder of the work ethic that this team had. Their work ethic allowed them to get to where they were to win the region championship.”

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From the spirited performance of a senior-laden defensive line to the industrious performance of running back Elijah Smith, the outgoing players showed a concerted effort in defeat.

While the pain of an abrupt end to the season was felt throughout the team after the final whistle, there were still a trove of positive memories for the players to reflect on — especially the region title. 

“Nobody believed in us,” senior lineman Cade Adams said. “It just felt great to do something that had not been done in a long time. And to do it with these brothers — it’s something I’ll definitely remember forever. This was earned.”

While Monroe came into the game known for the strongest defense in Region 8-3A, they displayed a full range of offensive skills against Dawson.

Quarterback Jeremiah Anderson needed only a few deep passes during the game to set up running back Darrion Manuel, who would finish with four rushing touchdowns.

The Tigers had chances early in the game and were in contention after cutting a 14-0 deficit in half during the second quarter. 

Quarterback Davis Glass found Dom LeBlanc on a 21-yard pass that the senior wide receiver would take into the end zone.

But Monroe quickly responded with another touchdown and finished off the second quarter with a fourth score of the game after taking over on downs. 

With Smith willing his team up the field, Dawson eventually found the end zone again early in the third quarter on a pass from Glass to Doug Pagel.

Despite those efforts, Monroe’s ability to find constant offensive success allowed the visitors to maintain a lead for the remainder of the game. 

Smith, who finished with 139 yards on his 30 carries, reflected on the team’s journey.

“Dawson County has been a blessing,” Smith said. “The coaches are great, we had great team chemistry and I wouldn’t ask for a different group of guys. I’ve been playing with these guys since I was five years old so it’s great watching each one of us grow and turn into grown men.”

Finishing the season with an 8-3 record, the 2022 edition of the Tigers were only the second team in program history to win a region title — doing so in a title-clinching game against rival Lumpkin County.

From sack machines Cade Adams and Kevin Haymond to target man LeBlanc to many more, the past season had many standout senior performances. 

One of those seniors who was a consistent producer for the team was Kade Moledor, who was utilized on both sides of the ball. For him, winning the region title was a cherished moment. 

“Beating Lumpkin at their place and not allowing an offensive touchdown when we were told we couldn’t handle them the whole week — that was a big win for us,” Moledor said. “I love these guys. I wish we could’ve kept playing…but it’s sweet to know we got something for Dawson County history.”

For Maxwell, he was impressed with the seniors in their ability to continue the high standards of previous teams and pass down those standards for future teams. 

“You play for those who played before you and you set the standard for those who follow,” Maxwell said. “The [seniors] set the standard for next year’s group to try to rise up. We’ve been blessed to be here eight years and make the playoffs every year…and that’s because people like these seniors are not getting relaxed and dropping the ball.”