Dawson County's varsity soccer teams battled the elements this week, with the Lady Tigers extending their undefeated season through a 3-2 victory over Gilmer in bitter conditions followed by a 2-0 win against Pickens in the pouring rain.
The boys team looked improved on offense in both matches, leading at halftime against Gilmer before losing 2-1. They would rebound against Pickens with a much-needed 1-0 win.
For the first time all season, the Lady Tigers experienced pressure late in a game, facing an inspired Gilmer side on Tuesday, March 14.
Heading into that road match, the Lady Tigers had accumulated an undefeated mark through the first 10 games, winning nine and drawing one — while also scoring 43 goals and allowing just four.
But the game against Gilmer proved to be tougher than expected, with the Lady Tigers managing to hold off a comeback effort from the Lady Bobcats to win 3-2 and improve to a 2-0 mark in Region 7-3A.(Story continues below)
The freshman duo of Harper Dussouy and Hayden Hand led the way for Dawson, with Hand scoring the opening goal before Dussouy scored twice.
Head coach Chess Hamby hoped the surprisingly close game would serve as a wake-up call for the team as they prepare for even more challenging matches.
“We possessed the ball pretty well in the first half and just missed a lot of scoring opportunities,” Hamby said. “We’ve got to understand that anybody can on any given night, especially in this region. We can’t have those down moments…that lead to scores like that.”
With both teams playing in bitter conditions, the Lady Tigers took longer than usual to get the offense warmed up.
But half an hour into the game, Dawson’s constant pressure finally broke through, with Hand flying up the left wing before slotting in a tight pass to sophomore Melodie Martin, who would draw defenders to her before passing it back to a wide-open Hand.
After Hand converted a tidy finish, the Lady Tigers would double their advantage just five minutes later, with the team flipping the wing positions of Dussouy and Hand to challenge Gilmer.
This time it was Dussouy who went up the left side, deftly dribbling high up the pitch before slicing a chip shot that sailed over the goalkeeper and into the net.
Dawson continued to have a large share of possession well into the second half, but Gilmer’s counterattacks eventually earned them a goal on 64 minutes after rattling a shot in from a corner kick.
Just four minutes later, the Lady Tigers responded to Gilmer’s upswing in form with a quick goal. Elena Nelson plundered her way through the Lady Bobcats defense before drawing a foul and earning a free kick in scoring range.
Her strong effort proved too strong for the goalkeeper, bouncing off her hand and into the path of Dussouy, who swiftly put the ball in the net.
But Gilmer was far from out of the game, themselves responding with a goal just four minutes later.
The final eight minutes of the match proved to be tense for Dawson, who held on to secure a tenth win this season.
Dussouy now has 16 goals and 12 assists this season — both marks ranking within the top 7 in Class 3A according to MaxPreps.
On Friday, March 17, the Lady Tigers muscled out a 2-0 home win over Pickens in the face of constant rainfall.
The score remained scoreless at halftime, with Dawson leaving several scoring chances on the table.
Well into the second half, the hosts broke the deadlock from the penalty spot, with Martin converting the kick after the Dragonettes fouled on a scoring chance.
Dawson scored an insurance goal toward the end of the match, with Nelson's lofted free kick finding a teammate before rolling in the path of Daisy Vargas Sanchez, who knocked it in from close range.
The Lady Tigers now stand at an 11-0-1 overall record and a 3-0 mark in region play.
Dawson’s boys team had two of their strongest offensive performances of the season against Gilmer and Pickens — fueled by new formations and two key players returning from injury.
Forward Sheppard Kohler and winger Alessandro Franco returned to the Tigers’ setup, with Kohler paired with Jacob Felkai up front against Gilmer while Saul Ruiz joined Kohler up top against Pickens. All three would play important roles in each game.
The Tigers initially went for a more aggressive formation against Gilmer, with a trio of offensive players moving behind the front two. But the Pickens game saw a more balanced setup, which paid off throughout.
While Dawson had plenty of possession and scoring chances against the Dragons, the win was ultimately earned through the team's strongest form and communication all season.
In the midfield, Hector Tenorio and Angel Zavala distributed efficiently to wingers Franco and Asher Morris, with the four players applying constant offensive pressure.
Key contributions from the bench came from Junior Sanchez and Zach Cruz — with the latter having one of his best individual efforts all year.
Eventually, Kohler put the Tigers ahead in the second half, surging his way through the Dragons defense before squaring up a shot that went over the keeper's head and into the top center of the net.
That goal would prove to be enough for the Tigers to win a crucial region match and move to a 4-7-1 overall record.
"We had some guys really step up who I had been working with and talking with...Asher on the outside did an amazing job," head coach Patrick Muenchen said. "Everyone is getting healthy, so it's nice [that] we have support players coming in and doing a great job. Our biggest hurdle is getting the ball in the net. We had so many opportunities in front of the goal."
The previous formation strategy worked for the Tigers in the first half against Gilmer, with a goal knocked in by Ruiz after a sharp shot by Kohler was too strong to be handled by the Bobcats keeper.
Dawson continued to have most of the possession in the second half, but a defensive error allowed Gilmer to equalize shortly after halftime.
Just three minutes after that goal, a Gilmer player whipped in a long-range shot that curled just past the outstretched arms of Bryce Beach, who otherwise had another strong outing.
Despite repeated opportunities for the rest of the match, the Tigers could not find a second goal.
Next up, Dawson County will host White County on Friday, March 24.