Every sports fan can imagine putting themselves in the shoes of an athlete in the game-winning situation.
Bottom of the ninth with two outs and your team is down by one run or you just need to make these two free throws to win the game, all pressure is on you. It’s one thing to imagine what would happen in that situation.
It’s another to be in it and succeed.
That is exactly what sophomore Dominic LeBlanc did on Friday Sept. 24 in Cleveland, Ga. With the game between Dawson County and White County High School tied with 28 seconds left in the game, LeBlanc drained a 35-yard field goal to give the Tigers a 31-28 win in the region opener.
“I was very scared and very nervous,” LeBlanc said after the game. “Oh my gosh, it’s hard to even describe what was going through my mind. Deep breaths keep me level headed. Before I go out there, I’m trying to stay serious. The feeling after is great though...I don’t know if I can describe it. Just feels amazing.”
Though LeBlanc might have been feeling butterflies flying around in his stomach, head coach Sid Maxwell said after the game that LeBlanc was not showing it on the sidelines.
“He’s the type of guy where I’m not sure anything really bothers him,” Maxwell said. “He’s just in the moment. He doesn’t show a lot of emotion up or down, but I’m very proud of him. That’s a tough environment to be in and he came through when we needed him.”
LeBlanc’s field goal capped off a 17 unanswered points in the last quarter-and-a-half of play for the Tigers. The teams went into the locker room at halftime tied at 14, but White County scored twice quickly into the second half to take a two score lead.
However, quick receiving touchdowns by senior wide receivers Bailey Dameron and Braedon Hubbard from senior quarterback Zach Holtzclaw equalized the game once again before the field goal.
“We rallied back,” Maxwell said. “They’ve played hard regardless of the score. Those non-region losses build us to be able to win these games. The journey of hard knocks toughens you to get ready for what you’re going to face. Defensively, we shut them down there at the end of the game. It’s a great game when you can come back.”
The Tigers were paced once again on offense tonight by Dameron. In all five games this season, Dameron has eclipsed 100 receiving yards, finishing Friday night’s game with five catches for 161 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior running back Conley Dyer had a strong game running the ball for the Tigers. After fumbling on the Tigers first offensive possession, Dyer pushed through the Warriors defense for a 43-yard rushing touchdown. He finished the game with 14 carries for 90 yards.
Holtzclaw completed five of six passes to start the game, but threw three incompletions, including an interception, to start the second half. He would complete his next three throws for 123 yards and two touchdowns, leading the offense back into the game. He finished throwing 8-14 with 213 yards and three passing touchdowns.
Maxwell said the Tigers put themselves “in the driver’s seat” by opening the region schedule with a win against White County. The two teams that beat the Tigers in region play last year, North Hall and Cherokee Bluff, both won their region openers Friday night.
“It’s a really big win,” Maxwell said. “Now we know who we have to beat. And they’re a really good football team.”
If he had to name an unappreciated hero from the game, Maxwell said he gives immense credit to his special teams unit. White County wide receiver Darius Cannon, who travels to the University of Alabama campus on Saturday on an unofficial visit to watch the Crimson Tide’s game, caught two touchdowns but was kept at-bay on kickoffs and punts throughout the game.
“Special teams were great,” Maxwell said. “They’re a pretty explosive football team and we shut them down pretty hard on kickoffs and punts.”
The Tigers (2-3, 1-0 in Region 7-3A) have a bye week next week and will return to the gridiron on Friday, Oct. 8 at Gilmer High School to face the Bobcats (2-2, 0-1 in Region 7-3A). The game starts at 7:30 p.m.