Dawson County put up a spirited effort against a very athletic Jefferson football team Friday night at Tigers Stadium. The Tigers fell short 21-10 to end the team's hopes of a state playoff game.
Head Coach Jeff Lee's Tigers finished the season 5-5. The record is the best regular season record that the Tigers have posted since 2005 when the team finished 7-3. It has now been seven years since the Tigers have reached the playoffs.
Jefferson moved to 8-2 and advanced to be the #4-seed out of Region 8-AA. The Dragons will travel to Calhoun on Friday. The Yellow Jackets come into the game with a perfect 10-0 record. Calhoun plays in Region 7-AA.
Turnovers proved to be the down fall of Dawson County.
The Tigers fumbled the ball four times and had one interception in the 11-point loss.
"When we don't play well turnovers are always part of the cause," Lee said. "I thought we had a great chance to win, but when you cough the ball up it puts pressure on our defense to come up with stops."
The Tigers played a great first half.
Dawson's defense stopped the inside running game of Jefferson. Defensive coordinator Van Samples' defense allowed only 76 total yards of offense in the first half.
Dawson got on the board first with 6:02 left in the first quarter. Max Muldoon connected on a 27-yard field goal that gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead.
A turnover led to the only touchdown in the first half for the Dragons.
Tigers quarterback Tyler Dominy had a pass bounce off the shoulder of receiver Will Anglin into the hands of Dragon linebacker Carson Newman. Newman rambled 66-yards for the score.
Jefferson held a 7-3 lead with 4:22 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers answered and shook off the turnover.
Fullback Zack Martin scored from 1-yard out and a Muldoon extra point gave Dawson a 10-7 advantage with 10:29 left before halftime.
The Dragons threatened just before halftime, driving down to the 6-yard line.
Jefferson ran seven plays, but the Dawson defense came up strong and did not allow the Dragons into the end zone as time ran out to end the first half.
Martin had a great night for the Tigers.
He finished with 25 carries for 150 yards and Dawson's lone touchdown. Martin concluded the season with 212 rushes for 1,211 yards and 17 touchdowns.
"(Martin) just kept breaking tackle after tackle," said Dragons Coach T. McFerrin.
"I didn't know he was only a junior," he added.
The second half was a different story.
Jefferson made some adjustments in its running game and decided to attack the perimeter of the Dawson County defense.
The Dragons scored on the team's first possession of the second half on a five-play, 59-yard drive capped off by a 3-yard run by Dragon running back Tristen Jackson.
Following the extra point, Jefferson held a 13-10 lead just 3 minutes and 13 seconds into the second half.
Jackson scored again with 2:04 remaining in the third quarter on a 1-yard dive.
The Dragons added the extra point to make the score 21-10.
The Tigers on the other hand were self-destructing.
Dawson turned the ball over on its first four drives of the second half.
The Tigers offense couldn't get any consistency and put the defense in jeopardy throughout the second half.
"I really felt like we had a chance, but we just made some costly mistakes," Lee said. "We've worked hard all season and had to overcome a lot early. And we did, and what you saw tonight is an improved product."
It was also senior night for the Tigers on Friday. Lee and his staff said goodbye to 10 seniors.
Christopher Cody, Michael Garrett, Josh Gee, Robert Hardegree, Scott Parker, Stanton Rogers, Caleb Samples, Lee Smith, Dylan Stradley and Dakota Wood played their last games at Tigers Stadium.
"This group of players has been a big part of our program and will be missed. We wish them the best and they should understand that they will always be a part of this football program," Lee said.
The Tigers will have a good core of returning players for next year's team.
Coming back for his senior season will be quarterback Tyler Dominy.
Dominy finished the season completing 137-of-218 passes for 1,851 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Dominy will have his favorite receiver to throw to in Bruce Clark.
Clark had 53 catches for 634 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
Other notable players returning are: Will Anglin, Mitchell Putnam and Cody Smith.
The Gainesville Times contributed to this story.