Effort, guts, fight, determination; the list could go on and on for describing the Dawson County Tiger football team last Friday night.
Playing against a higher classification in Gilmer County on the road in front of a huge crowd, the Tigers fought hard but came up on the short end of a 26-20 overtime loss to the AAA Bobcats.
"I thought our kids gave great effort," said head coach Jeff Lee.
"We knew coming in that they were going to try and stop Martin at fullback and limit our inside game. We also knew that they would try and contain Bruce Clark on the outside. They did a pretty good job on Clark and Martin, but both of them made some big plays. I really think we grew up tonight," Lee said.
"We didn't know how they were going to play us. But they had to pick their poison. Chris Sayler and Levi Whitmire had big catches for us and they're both ninth or tenth graders," Lee added.
Lee's team dominated much of the first half and jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
Tiger quarterback Tyler Dominy found his favorite receiver Bruce Clark on a 24-yard touchdown pass that culminated in a 7-minute drive that gave Dawson a 6-0 lead.
Max Muldoon added the extra point. Dawson held a 7-0 lead with 1:40 left in the first quarter.
Gilmer had to use a trick play to get on the scoreboard. The Bobcat quarterback tossed the football to his halfback who in turn found a wide open receiver for a 58-yard score that tied the game at 7-7 early in the second quarter.
The Tigers answered with a drive of their own. Dominy found tight end Keaton Toal with a 3-yard touchdown with 4:53 left before halftime. Muldoon added the extra point that gave Dawson a 14-7 lead.
Special teams proved to be a big part of the ballgame.
Gilmer went on a drive that took the football down to the Dawson 26-yard line. The Tigers defense stiffened and forced a Bobcats field goal. Gilmer kicker Manny Lopez hit a 33-yard field goal that cut Dawson's lead to 14-10.
Ball control and using clock ate up the second half.
The Bobcats took the opening second half kickoff and used 6 minutes and 56 seconds before attempting a 40-yard field goal. This time Lopez missed. The ball hit the left upright.
Dawson couldn't move the football in its opening second half drive. After four plays, the Tigers had to punt the ball back to Gilmer.
Once again the Bobcats went on a time consuming drive that took the football down to the Tigers 23-yard line. Gilmer lined up for a field goal but used some trickery to try and pick up a first down on a fake. The Tigers stopped the fake short of a first down, in turn stopping a Gilmer scoring drive.
The Tigers went on their own long drive that ate up the clock in the third quarter. The drive stalled after eating 7 minutes and 52 seconds off the clock on a costly penalty. Dawson was forced to punt.
On a fourth and two, the Bobcats decided to try and convert a first down. The Gilmer quarterback completed a pass to one of his receivers who scampered 65-yards for a touchdown. The extra point was good and Gilmer took its first lead 17-14.
Mistakes were costly to the Tigers, according to Lee.
"We made some mental mistakes in the second half with penalties and that killed us," Lee said.
Dawson got the ball back with 3:36 remaining on the 36-yard line. Dominy found Clark once again on a big play from 27-yards out for a touchdown. With only 43 seconds remaining Dawson took the lead back 20-17.
"Our kids did not quit. We found a way to come back," Lee said.
In what may have been the biggest play of the evening for Dawson County. Muldoon attempted the extra point but it was no good and opened the door up for Gilmer.
The Bobcats responded with less than 40 seconds remaining in the game. Gilmer used short sideline passes to get out of bounds and stop the clock. The Bobcats took the ball down to Dawson's 17-yard line.
Lopez lined up at the 24-yard line for a field goal that cleared the left upright and sent the game into overtime.
Lee's team took the ball first in overtime from the 15-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage Dominy was intercepted.
Gilmer took advantage and scored on a fullback dive from 12-yards out to take the 26-20 win.
The Tigers will face off with a very athletic Jefferson team Friday night. The Dragons will come into the contest with a 2-0 record.
"This will be a big challenge for us. I told the kids to rest up this weekend and we will get back to work and get ready for Jefferson," Lee said.
Kickoff for Friday's game will be at 7:30 p.m. at Tiger Stadium in Dawsonville.