A young Dawson County Tigers football team battled back repeatedly last Friday, making significant strides on offense, but was unable to find victory despite a late rally against White County.
The Tigers lost in Cleveland 45-42 on Sept. 22.
“It was one of those games that we just made improvement on offense,” said Head Coach Sid Maxwell. “Our defense read too many clippings in the paper and thought they had arrived.
I think our kids thought nobody could score on them.”
“You score 42 points – you should win the ball game,” said Defensive Coordinator Brent Cox. “This loss is on our defense and special teams. Simple game plan: stop No. 22 (Kaleb Crane), make tackles and cover the deep ball, the final score tells you how successful we were.”
White County deferred after winning the toss and a bobbled kickoff became a return to the 50 yard line by Noah Brock.
The Tigers went to Vaughn Clark on the ground and Coey Watson, who returned this week at quarterback after a knee injury.
Watson found Ethan Cameron through the air early and often. Cameron had 12 receptions for 181 yards.
The initial drive to the 4-yard line culminated in a 10-yard touchdown pass to Cameron to give Dawson the early 7-0 lead after Peyton Allen hit the extra point.
The Warriors started their first drive from their own 33 and J. Ben Haynes connected with Ty Ulrich to take White County to the 26-yard line on the opening play before Crane would stiff arm a Tiger defender on his way into the end zone.
With 8:03 in the first quarter, the game was tied at 7.
Dawson would go three and out on its next three possessions while the Warriors scored on a pass from Haynes to Crane, a 47-yard field goal and another touchdown through the air.
“They did a good job,” Maxwell said. “He (Crane) is a really good runner, especially against your first level…After you tackle him a couple of times then you get the big plays on passes.”
The Dawson defense came up with a stop following the next Warrior drive that had been extended by a fake punt for a first down.
“Positives were that we never gave up – great effort coming back and came up short. First quarter was a disaster from defensive side of the ball, second and third were sound,” said Cox.
The Tigers began from inside their own 5-yard line and depended on Clark who came up with a 40-yard run, Cameron and Robbie Rarick.
Clark carried 29 times for 169 yards.
Rarick ran in a touchdown on second and goal to make it 24-14 with 2:57 until half.
At the end of the second quarter, the Warriors came within field goal range, but could not convert and settled for a 24-14 halftime lead.
On the opening play of the second half, White County’s Bailey Anderson returned the kick for a touchdown making it 31-14.
“We battled back from 24-7, to battle back before half, to hold them from a field goal and go in 24-14 and let them come out and score the very first place,” Maxwell said. “That put us on the ropes a little bit.”
The Tigers took the field and drove behind Clark and Rarick running.
Watson again found Cameron in the end zone. A bad snap on the extra point made for a failed 2-point conversion and left the score at 31-20.
“I was happy with how our kids came together this week,” said Offensive Coordinator Andy LeBlanc. “I thought they learned something about themselves as the game went on. Our kids fought for four full quarters and realized what it's going to take to be a successful offense.”
The momentum began to change when on the next White County drive, a fumble was recovered by Dawson’s Caleb Bell who returned it for 6 points. Another failed 2-point conversion made it 31-26 with 7:38 in the third quarter.
The Tigers then recovered their onside kick, but were unable to use it to their advantage.
The Dawson defense again went to work and Brice Bryant and Logan Brumbelow each came up with a tackle for a loss, including Brumbelow’s sack on Ulrich to back up the Warriors and force the punt.
The next Dawson drive began from inside their own 5 again. Despite the efforts of Watson who went 27-for-44 for 323 yards and four touchdowns, the Tigers drive stalled and the field goal attempt was no good.
“He (Watson) bought some time with his feet and tried not to do too much. Probably one of the best plays he had, he had no one to throw to and he purposely slowed down and let the guy come in. He threw it so he hit him out of bounds and they called him for roughing. He set that up because he had no one to throw to. You don’t teach that over night,” Maxwell said.
The Tigers next series saw a Clark run to the White County 20-yard line and ended with a Watson pass completed to Ryan Glass for a touchdown. Dawson picked up the 2-point conversion that time to take the lead at 34-31 with 9:16 to play.
White County quickly answered with a drive resulting in a Haynes touchdown pass to put the Warriors back on top 38-34.
The Tigers next drive ended abruptly when Watson was sacked and lost the ball. The Warriors recovered at the Tiger 25 and Crane ran it in to make it 45-34.
With just over 6 minutes to play, the Dawson offense started again and Watson went to Glass and Cameron driving to the 30-yard line. After three incompletions, Watson hit Wes Hollaway on fourth and 10 to score again.
Watson would then run it in for the extra 2 points cutting the White County lead to 3 at 45-42 with 4:07 left.
“I thought we still have a lot of room to improve in every aspect of the offense,” LeBlanc said. “We need to continue to cut down on penalties and be as efficient as we can as a whole.”
The Warriors slowed things down and kept the ball on the ground, picking up three first downs and ending Dawson’s hope of a comeback.
The loss takes Dawson County to 2-2 overall.
Region play opens this week when the Tigers will host North Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 29 at Tiger Stadium.
“North Hall is a very well coached team,” LeBlanc said. “As a defense they are always in the right spots and work well as a unit. Our kids will need to play hard, error-free football Friday. I think North Hall has gotten better as a team each week, I know we will get their best game of the year this week.”
“It’s region play now. Those other four games are a chance to evaluate your personnel and know who you are. So these next six games we play, all of them count for something,” Maxwell said.