The Dawson County High School Tigers traveled just down the road to the new Denmark High School in Alpharetta Sept. 14 to take on the also undefeated Danes, and the Tigers emerged with a 38–21 win that moved them to 4 and 0 on the season.
Prior to kickoff, the teams looked to be equally matched on paper.
The Tiger offense, featuring senior quarterback SeVaughn Clark and senior running back Ahmad Kamara, had outscored their first three opponents of the season by a combined score of 135–42. Together Clark and Kamara have accounted for 10 of the team’s 16 rushing touchdowns, while Clark has thrown for two more scores.
“They play a lot of two-back offense,” said Danes’ defensive coordinator Mike Hollis about the traveling competition. “They are an extremely physical team.”
On the opposite side of the ball, the Danes offense looked to be a challenge for the Dawson County defense, led by seniors Zac Baloga and Logan Barnes, having racked up their own impressive scoring ratio of 89–35 in their trio of contests.
“[The Danes are] a team of good athletes,” said Brent Cox, defensive coordinator for the Tigers. “We can’t let them expose us. We just need to do our jobs.”
The Danes defense had been well prepared for the game as the Tigers struggled to move the ball down field on their opening drive.
After Kamara finally managed to break free around the outside into the end zone for what appeared to be the Tigers’ first touchdown of the night, a holding call took the points off the board. Given a second chance the Danes’ defense proved equal to the task and stopped the Tigers on the one-foot line on a fourth and goal.
Danes quarterback Ben Whitlock opened the drive throwing from his own end-zone with a quick 20-yard pass. Demonstrating good accuracy and great arm strength, Whitlock quickly moved his team from the shadow of his own goal posts past the 50-yard line.
The Tigers defense demonstrated their prowess as Barnes locked in a Whitlock pass, snagging his third interception of the year to set up Clark and the offense with a short field.
Showing off his continued development as a dual-threat quarterback, Clark put the Tigers on the board for the first time of the night with a 15-yard pass to sophomore Dakohta Sonnichsen and the Tigers took the lead 7–0.
One play, and one blown coverage later, the Danes tied the game on a 75-yard throw and catch from Whitlock to junior wide receiver Adonnis Tolbert, who blew past his defender along the right-hand side of the field to run into the end zone untouched.
The Tigers returned to the ground game with a combination of Kamara up the middle and jet sweeps featuring the speed of senior running back Evan Abernathy and the elusiveness of senior wide receiver Ethan Cameron. Clark continued to demonstrate his arm, moving the chains with the short passing game when necessary.
Driving the ball efficiently down the field, the Tigers broke through the defense from just outside the 20-yard line on a beautiful second-effort catch by senior Ryan Glass on a ball that looked to have been batted away by the defender to take the lead by a score of 14–7.
The Danes pushed into Dawson County territory on their next drive but Riley Herndon, the Tigers junior cornerback, stepped in front of another Whitlock pass and gathered Denmark’s second turnover of the night.
In the face of an overwhelming blitz on the following third down, Clark flung a wild pick six to the flat and the Danes kicking unit added the extra point to move the game back into a tie at 14 points apiece.
After taking the ensuing kickoff out to their own 35, the Tigers returned to the running game but, three plays into the drive, on a jet sweep to the left side of the field, Sonnichsen had the ball knocked loose and the Danes defense recovered the fumble in great field position.
A smothering Tigers pass rush led to two incompletions and on third down the Danes tried a draw play that fooled no one, ending with another fumble (this one recovered by Baloga) and the Tigers once again took over on offense having escaped the threat.
The Tigers opened the second quarter with a Kamara 17-yard option run to break the tie and take the lead at 21–14. The Tigers defense continued to manhandle the Danes, shutting down Whitlock and his offense forcing a three-and-out to get the ball back.
Appearing to have finally worn down the Danes defense, Clark and the Tigers drove the length of the field in just over three minutes with Clark capping off the drive his first of two rushing touchdowns on the night and extending the Tigers lead to 14 as the score widened to a margin of 28–14.
Once again, the Tigers defense stood tall, this time getting the ball back after a well-timed sack by senior Jacob Frady.
Both teams settled into rhythm as the half wound to a close and the Tigers managed to drive the ball deep into Danes territory once again only to stall out in the red zone. Sophomore kicker Caleb Bonesteel tacked on a field goal to bring the score to 31–14 as both teams headed to the locker rooms for the break.
The game’s second half continued to feature the staunch defense of the Tigers as Barnes ended the Danes’ opening drive of the half with his fourth interception of the season, but the defense for Denmark experienced a resurgence in the second half and proved effective at finally shutting down the offense of Dawson County.
Both teams took their turns trying to move the ball down the field with the Danes attempting to break the Tigers secondary with a series of deep pass attempts and the Tigers tying to claw out yardage with the middle run and short passing game.
The teams continued to exchange possessions until Abernathy broke free for a 61-yard scamper that set Clark up for his second rushing touchdown of the game with just over one minute remaining in the third quarter to bring the score to 38 for the Tigers and 21 for the Danes.
The fourth quarter was a continuation of the brutal defenses that marked the third quarter and, other than a blocked punt that resulted a late quarter touchdown for the Danes, there were no further fireworks on the night and the game closed out with a final score of 38–21.
The Tigers will face off with their annual rivalry game against the Lumpkin County High School Indians at home Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21.