Even with another solid defensive outing, the Dawson County Tigers were unable to secure the win against the West Hall Spartans last week.
“Anytime you lose a close game like that, you reflect back,” said Head Coach Sid Maxwell. “Everything is a learning process.”
Without senior quarterback Coey Watson under center, the Tigers turned to junior Vaughn Clark to run the offense.
After a fumble on the first series, the Tigers held the Spartans to a field goal before Chance Armstrong came up with an interception on the following West Hall series.
The play gave Dawson momentum and on the third drive of the night, the Tigers were able to find the end zone on a Shawn Thomas run.
The Dawson County D came up with a stop to give the offense another shot, but they could not convert.
“We had a big drive and came down and scored and then held,” Maxwell said. “We lost our momentum. Momentum is so huge in any sport you play, but especially football.”
At the end of the first quarter, Dawson held a 7-3 lead but the Spartans answered early in the second quarter with a touchdown run.
The Tigers would punt it away on their next possession.
“With Coey not playing, our youth, we made too many mistakes,” Maxwell said. “We played solid defense again. Had a couple of breakdowns there at the end. For us, we played hard.
“We are simplifying and doing some things coaching wise that I think will make us better.”
Clark was 3-for-9 passing for 23 yards and carried for another 33.
Thomas picked up 63 yards on the ground on 12 carries.
“We struggled to be consistent offensively,” said Offensive Coordinator Andy LeBlanc. “Negative plays and penalties continue to be a problem for us.”
The Spartans and Tigers continued in a defensive battle and West Hall took the 10-7 lead into half.
In the third quarter, neither team would put points on the board, but defensive back Noah Brock broke up a pass on West Hall’s second possession before getting an interception on the following Spartan outing.
Dawson’s next drive behind the running of Thomas and Robbie Rarick would result in a Peyton Allen field goal to tie the game with 11:11 in the fourth quarter.
The Dawson defense continued to battle with Logan Barnes and Taylor Swofford coming up with multiple tackles on the night as they held the Spartans on the next two possessions.
Dawson’s next drive ended with a missed field goal and gave the Spartans’ their final shot. The drive took them into the TIgers’ red zone where the Spartans’ Israel Lopez would kick the game winning field goal with 15.8 seconds remaining.
“It’s never good to lose, but you re-focus your coaching staff, little things you take for granted,” Maxwell said.
“Too many negative plays, too many penalties. We did a good job punting the ball to get us out of a hole a lot of times. We had a good kicking game except for that one field goal. I can’t fault the special teams or the defense,” he said.
Next up for the Tigers is 4A White County. The Warriors are currently 4-1.
Dawson County will play at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 22 in Cleveland.
The Tigers are now 2-1.
On Sept. 14, the eighth grade team traveled to Fannin County and came away with a 12-7 victory.
“I can't say enough good things about these kids,” said Coach Chess Hamby. “They just keep finding a way to win when their backs are against the wall. Converting three fourth downs in a game winning drive is almost unheard of, so to say that we are proud of them is an understatement.”
Zach Holtzclaw had a rushing touchdown and Conley Dyer caught a touchdown pass from Andrew Burt with a minute left in the game for the win.
Stephen Closs had a game saving interception on Fannin’s last offensive possession, according to Hamby.
When the team was down 7-6, the offense converted three fourth downs in the fourth quarter to keep the drive going.
The Tigers' ninth grade team improved to 3-0 on Sept. 14 when they defeated Fannin County 17-7.
Caleb Bonesteel's fourth quarter 42-yard field goal sealed the game for the Tigers, according to Coach Kevin Grigsby.
"I'm proud of the effort and attitude of all our freshman team as we continue to improve and player faster and more physical each time out," he said.
The team will host Flowery Branch at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 21.
The team is now 3-2 and will play at 5 p.m. on Sept. 21 at Union County.
Kolton Brumbelow contributed to this story.