In a game that featured two of the top 25 teams in the state of Georgia, the Dawson County Tigers football team fought the Greater Atlanta Christian School Spartans until the very end only to come up short in a 23-20 loss Oct. 5.
The loss marked the end of an undefeated season for the Tigers and moved GAC solely into first place in region 7-AAA.
It was a true test of titans in Norcross, pitting the state’s number one passing quarterback, senior Josh Rose of the Spartans, versus the state’s number one scoring defense in a Tigers squad that had only allowed an average of 11 points per game thus far in the season.
The Spartans opened the game with the football and immediately attempted to establish the short passing game that had proved effective for them all year. The Tigers defense responded with good pressure from the front line, and GAC punted without presenting any threat.
For their first drive the Tigers set the tone with a punishing rushing assault highlighted by a 40-yard run from senior running back Ahmad Kamara. Unfortunately, the Spartans defense proved just as tough and Dawson County gave the ball back with nothing to show for their efforts.
The second quarter was a different contest altogether as the teams combined for 14 points in the first two minutes. The Tigers opened the frame with the game’s first touchdown, a 29-yard scamper from quarterback Vaughn Clark. The Spartans answered just as fast with a three-play, 70-yard drive to bring the game back to even.
The Tigers next series resulted in a three-and-out and the Spartans attempted to establish their running game as they launched a 6:30 drive deep into Tiger territory. Dawson County’s defense held strong and (just outside of field goal range) forced GAC into a punting situation. Fooling almost everyone in the stadium, the Spartans caught the Tigers napping and pulled off a fake punt for the first down to give themselves new life, but the Tigers buckled down on the next three plays and allowed only three-points on the drive.
Another three-and-out from the Tigers gave the ball back to the Spartans with just over two minutes remaining in the first half. Rose took full advantage of the opportunity by connecting with senior Ty James for a 69-yard touchdown bomb to give the Spartans a 17–7 edge heading into halftime.
“We have to play the next 24 minutes better than we are playing right now,” said Head Coach Sid Maxwell as the team headed into the locker room trailing an opponent for the first time this year.
Halftime adjustments from both teams turned the third quarter into the same type of defensive struggle that marked the first quarter. The highlight of the quarter came at the 5:30 mark when Tiger free safety Brody Howell intercepted a touchdown from Rose to end the longest drive of the half by either team.
The fourth quarter in Norcross will go down as one of the most entertaining, and disappointing, quarters of football in Dawson County history.
Trailing by 10, the Tigers opened the quarter with another three-and-out giving the ball back to the Spartans. Demonstrating their quick strike potential again the Spartans put 6 points on the board in two plays but missed the extra point to leave the score at 23–7 with 8:35 left in the game.
Never once giving up, the Tigers took possession of the ball and drove the length of the field on a seven play, four-minute drive capped off by a 7-yard Dakohta Sonnichsen touchdown. The Tigers were stiffed on the 2 point try and the score moved to 23–13. With just over four minutes remaining in the half the Tigers attempted and recovered an onside kick to set up another scoring opportunity.
The Tigers wasted the opportunity with what amounted to the worst series of the game for the offense. In four plays Dawson County, via a sack and two false start penalties, lost 14 yards and found themselves facing a long fourth down outside of field goal range and they were forced to punt once again. With just over two minutes remaining it looked like the end for the Tigers.
On the second play form scrimmage, as the Spartans looked only to run out the clock, junior Bryce Bryant forced the ball loose and senior Jason Browning was there for the recovery to give the Tigers the ball deep in Spartan territory. With newfound hope the Tigers took to the field and quickly took advantage of the turn-over with another Clark touchdown run, this one from seven yards out to bring the Tigers within three.
Another on-side kick ensued, but this one was recovered by the Spartans and with just over a minute to play and despite the Tigers burning all three time-outs, they were able to run out the clock and squeeze out the victory by a final score of 23–20.
“Fundamentally, we have to make plays” said Maxwell. “We had opportunities.”
The Tigers are on fall break this week but will return Oct. 19 with a game at Fannin County. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.