For two and a half quarters the Dawson County Tigers stood toe to toe with the Class AAA No. 1-ranked team. Head Coach Jeff Lee's team put forth a valiant effort, trailing just 14-3 at halftime, against the Buford High School Wolves.
The Dawson County defense forced three first half turnovers, but eventually succumbed to a 42-10 loss to Buford.
The Wolves have a commanding 4-0 Region 7-AAA record and are 7-0 overall.
Dawson County is 4-3 and 2-2 in the region.
Dawson County got its first turnover of the half on an errant throw by Buford quarterback Taylor Mitchell. Defensive back Jackson Putnam intercepted the pass and raced 27-yards down to the Buford 23-yard line.
Buford's defense held and the Wolves marched 68 yards in eight plays for its first score on a 1-yard run by Joshua Thomas with 3:35 remaining in the first quarter.
Matthew Bonadies added the extra point and Buford held a 7-0 lead.
Dawson quarterback Zack Buchan found Chris Sayler on a long pass on the Tigers' next possession. The Tigers weren't able to move the ball any further and were forced to punt.The kick was downed on the Wolves' 5-yard line.
The Wolves picked up their second turnover on a bad pitch. Dawson recovered the fumble.
Dawson's offense was unable move the ball, leading to a 29-yard field goal by Muldoon at the 9:29 mark of the second quarter.
The undefeated Wolves took the next offensive possession and went 65-yards for their second touchdown by Thomas from 6-yards out. Bonadies added the extra point to give Buford a 14-3 lead with 6:18 to go before halftime.
The Buford special teams stepped up on Dawson's next offensive possession. The Wolves blocked a punt by Muldoon that gave Buford the ball on Dawson's 25-yard line.
On the first play from scrimmage, Buford tried for a touchdown but Tiger defender Sayler picked off Taylor's pass in the end zone.
Buchan then led Dawson County on a march down the field with time running out before the half. The Tigers threat was thwarted as Buchan was intercepted on the Buford 10-yard line by Korie Rogers.
Buford's offense caught on fire in the third quarter. The Wolves scored four touchdowns in the quarter, essentially putting the game out of reach, 42-3.
Thomas picked up his third and fourth touchdown on runs of five and 30 yards. Buford also added two more scores by Donte' Gordon on a four-yard run and Thomas Wilson on a five-yard romp.
Three of Buford's third quarter touchdowns were set up by two Tiger turnovers and a fourth down stop.
The Wolves didn't throw a pass the entire second half.
The Tigers finally found the end zone with 49 seconds remaining in the game. Buchan found Keaton Toal on a four-yard touchdown pass. It was the first time since Sept. 6, versus Gainesville High School, that a team has scored a touchdown against Buford. In that game Buford came away with a 38-14 win over the Red Elephants who are reigning Class AAAAA state champions.
Buchan finished the night 10-for-27 for 133 yards.
The Tigers managed 32 total yards on the ground in 27 attempts. Toal led the Tigers ground game with 10 rushes for 21 yards.
Sayler led all Dawson County receivers with four catches for 74 yards. Dalton Edwards had two catches for nine-yards. Also catching passes for Dawson were Zach Guy, Lamar, Toal and Brett Whalen.
"For the better part of two and a half quarters, we executed the game plan and played with some passion," Lee said. "I have to give it to our coaching staff and our players, we played with the best program in the state. I am proud of them for that. Eventually our mistakes, field position and inability to score touchdowns led to a disastrous stretch in the third quarter."
Up next for Dawson County will be a trip to Cleveland to face a very good White County Warrior team. The Warriors, coached by Bill Ballard, pulled a 21-7 upset over North Hall on Friday night.
"With the White County win on Friday night, the playoff spots for two through four are now up for grabs for four teams. We could end up anywhere from second to not making the state playoffs. This White County win is big for both schools," Lee said.
Dawson County still has to play White and Fannin counties and West Hall. The Tigers must win all three games to secure a spot in the state playoffs.
White County is currently 5-2 on the season and more importantly the team is 3-1 in region play.
Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m.