As the opening coin toss tumbled to the turf and fans cheered madly for that tiny sliver of metal it was evident that all northeast Georgia had been waiting for this day.
County High School Tigers opened the varsity football season with a visit to
John Larry Black Field at Habersham Central High School on Friday, Aug. 17
and closed out with a win over the Raiders.
Winning the opening toss, the Habersham Raiders deferred the ball to the second half. The Dawson County Tigers put the setting sun at their backs and after taking the opening kick-off out to their own 22-yard line, sent the offense onto the field for the first time in 2018.
Featuring a backfield duo of seniors in quarterback Sevaughn Clark and running back Ahmad Kamara, the Tigers quickly began to test the defensive front with a series of runs up the middle, breaking off yardage in three and five-yard chunks.
Continuing to wear down the Raider defense and slowly working the ball to the outside paid off on the opening drive as Kamara broke loose around the right side for 28-yards to take the ball into the end zone. With just over seven minutes to play in the first quarter, the Tigers took an early 7 – 0 lead.
Relying more on a short passing game, the Raiders offense took the field for their first possession of the game and quickly demonstrated how dangerous a team they could be. After hauling in a short pass from Raider quarterback Luke Wilson, wide receiver Donovan Curry scrambled and ducked his way 75 yards through the Tigers secondary to tie the game at 7.
minutes remaining on the clock, the Tigers offense took to the field but was
quickly shut down as the Raiders seemed to adapt the run game. After forcing
the punt, the Raiders found the Tiger defense had also buckled down and were
quickly forced to punt themselves.
The Tigers started
the drive with great field position and continued to move the ball along the
ground, once again testing the defensive line of the Raiders. As the first
quarter ended the Tigers broke loose around the corner with Clark sweeping off to the left side for a 14-yard touchdown. Adding two points
on the conversion brought the score at the end of the quarter to 15 – 7 with
the Tigers in the lead.
The second quarter turned into a defensive battle as both teams struggled to move the ball effectively and both teams saw drives ending deep in enemy territory. As the game moved towards half-time, Tigers kicker Caleb Bonesteel managed to add a field-goal to extend their lead and bring the mid-game score to the Tigers 18 and the Raiders 7.
“We have to find a way to finish plays,” Habersham Raiders Head Coach Benji Harrison said as he headed towards the locker room with his team. “Keep our defense off the field.”
Receiving the ball to open the third quarter, the Raiders set up shop at their own 25. Trying their own hand at the running game they moved the ball several yards on two plays before dropping back and catching the defense with another quick strike down the left sideline for a touchdown. Settling for the single PAT the Raiders brought the score to 18 – 14.
Just over a minute later the Dawson County Tigers demonstrated a quick strike ability of their own with Clark breaking another long run. A 66-yard gallop straight up the middle of the field silenced the home crowd and extended the Tigers lead to 25 over 14.
Gathering themselves, the Raiders put together a precise drive built on a short passing game, and some quick inside runs to bring the ball quickly downfield. After several missed opportunities Raiders’ quarterback Wilson and wide receiver Curry hooked up in the corner of the end zone for another Raider touchdown, bringing the score to 25 – 21 in favor of the Tigers.
As the fourth quarter began the Tigers were in possession of the ball and the lead. Settling down to the business of running down the clock, the Tiger offense drove deep into Raider territory, but a bad snap and an ill-timed personal foul pushed them out of scoring position and the Tigers were forced to punt with just over eight minutes remaining in the game.
Pinned at their own eight-yard line, the Raiders started their final drive in the shadow of their own goal post. Narrowly escaping a safety on two separate plays as Logan Barnes and Zac Baloga led a newly energized Tiger defense, the Raiders managed to move the ball slowly but surely out to mid-field when disaster struck for the Tigers.
Breaking straight through the middle of the line, Raiders running back Arian Curry scampered 50 yards down the field for the go-ahead touchdown, the PAT was good, and with 6 minutes 32 seconds remaining in the game, the Tigers found themselves behind for the first time.
Starting from their own 35 and with plenty of time on the clock the Tigers stuck to the game plan and continued to move the ball along the ground gaining yards in small but efficient chunks. Using the sidelines and their one remaining time-out to manage the clock, the Tigers moved the ball to the 14-yard line with just over a minute remaining.
After a series of plays featuring a resurgent and furious defense from the Raiders it was suddenly fourth down and one from the five-yard line. Down by four, the Tigers had no choice but to go for it and the game came down to one final play.
From five yards out, on a designed quarterback keeper, Clark took the ball and the team under his arm bursting through the center of the line picking up not only the first down, but the touchdown. The game winning touchdown, with 53 seconds remaining.
After the PAT, the score was 32 – 28, and the Tigers would go on to win the game.
The DCHS Tigers (1 – 0) will host the Chestatee War Eagles (0 – 1) for their next game at 7:30 p.m. Friday, August 24 in Tiger Stadium at Dawson County High School.