Rivalry games always mean that records can be thrown out the window.
For Dawson County, this year’s Lumpkin County rivalry game amounted to a distraction, but the Tigers battled through and maintained a perfect region record to set up another clash with Greater Atlanta Christian for a region championship on Friday.
“It was a tough game,” said Head Coach Sid Maxwell. “For us it was everything to lose and nothing to gain. I thought our boys battled.”
Senior quarterback Coey Watson had 236 yards—189 passing and 47 rushing while accounting for five touchdowns. Number four of those five was the 100th touchdown of his Dawson career.
"Scoring my 100th touchdown meant a lot to me because it was a goal I had been chasing since I was a freshman," said Watson. "I couldn't do it without God, my family and my coaches/team. I've been very blessed here in Dawson County."
“This is an incredible achievement, there are very few people out there that can say they had over 100 total touchdowns in their high school career,” said Offensive Coordinator Andy LeBlanc. “This speaks to his willingness to do whatever it takes to help his team."
After winning the toss and deferring, the Tigers would score on their second possession. Watson had a 39-yard keeper to propel the drive before carrying in his first score from 3 yards out. Caleb Bonesteel was in for an injured Peyton Allen and handled the extra point to go up 7-0 with 3:38 in the first.
The Indians would score for the first time early in the second quarter following Evan Abernathy’s run from the Lumpkin 12 to the Tiger’s 13-yard line. Noah Brock stopped the Abernathy scoring opportunity.
Dawson would help the Lumpkin drive with a personal foul to give the Indians first and goal at the 1 yard line. Julian Hazen ran it in to even things at 7 with 10:59 until the half.
After a stalled drive for the Tigers, the Indians next possession ended with a missed field goal.
Dawson began again from their 20 and after a short completion to Shawn Thomas, a pitch out to Vaughn Clark would result in a 74-yard run to the 1. Clark ran for 188 yards including one touchdown.
“He [Clark] created, was able to pop two long runs, unfortunately one was called back. Even with Lumpkin adding an extra defender in the box to stop the run game, we were able to be productive,” said LeBlanc.
Watson would punch it in on the next play and another Bonesteel extra point made it 14-7.
On the ensuing Indian drive, Chance Armstrong would pick up four stops for the Tiger defense before recovering a Lumpkin fumble giving Dawson the ball at their own 44.
Dawson capitalized on the opportunity with a Clark run for 9 before Watson found Ryan Glass from 36 yards out to add to the Tiger lead. Allen came in after a Bonesteel injury and added the extra point to make it 21-7 with 1:35 in the half.
Glass had five catches for two touchdowns and 177 yards receiving for the Tigers.
“Lumpkin brought a safety down to help run support,” said LeBlanc. “They wanted to stop Vaughn which gave us match ups on the perimeter. Ryan runs very good routes and we were confident he could win his match up. Ryan is a great team player and is willing to do what it takes to win.”
Lumpkin recovered their onside kick to open the second half and were able to move the ball starting from their 48.
After a Chandler Woodham completion to Hazen at the 11, a Luke Smith carry would result in a facemask call against the Tigers to give the Indians first and goal at the 6.
A holding penalty would push Lumpkin back, but Woodham scored from 14 yards out.
It was 21-14 Dawson with 8:13 in the third.
On first down from the 10, Cameron picked up a 26-yard run. Clark would fuel the drive with his own carry for another 30 yards and Watson earned another rushing touchdown taking him to 100 total in his Dawson career. This time the extra point was no good and the Tigers led 27-14 with 6:14 in the third.
Dawson stopped the next Indian drive, but Zac Baloga went down with an ankle injury and had to leave the game. Maxwell said he hopes he will be back for GAC.
The Tigers began again from their own 35 and three plays later, Watson found glass for 57 yards to get it to the Indian 1.This time Clark carried it in to add 6 more.
Watson scored the 2-point conversion to take it to 35-14 just before the start of the fourth period.
After what looked like a three and out for the Indians, a fake punt gave them a first down at the Tiger 35 but Armstrong picked off Woodham and gave it to the Tigers at the 45.
On second and 15 at the Indian 44 Watson connected with Glass again, this time on a post route and the PAT made it 42-14 with 10:11 to play.
A sustained Indians drive took them as far as the Dawson 5 before Taylor Swofford sacked Woodham for a loss.
With 40 seconds in the game, Lumpkin was able to add another touchdown on an Abernathy run.
Dawson County is now 7-2 overall and 5-0 in region play. The Tigers will travel to Greater Atlanta Christian on Friday. The Spartans (8-1, 5-0) are also undefeated in the region and the winner will become 7-AAA region champions.
“Obviously this will be an incredible test for us as an offense and team…Our focus is on what we can control. We need to stay focused on us, execute and play fast and confident,” said LeBlanc. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, I’m excited to see what we can do.”
“Like I said, to be here three years and be able to play for a region championship all three years,” Maxwell said. “Hats off to these boys and coaching staff to be in position we are now. Of course with GAC on the other side, but at the same time it comes down to execution.
“Are the young men buying into what we are doing? We are going to try and get them ready.”
The game will be at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 3 at GAC.