Coey Watson and Tyler Dominy — These two former Dawson County quarterbacks can still be found in the Georgia high school football record books.
But a new name could be added in the coming season. Current Tigers’ quarterback Zach Holtzclaw has a chance to shatter all Tigers’ quarterback records in the 2021 season.
For the last two years, Zach Holtzclaw has been the team’s starting quarterback. If he throws for 2,000 yards this season, 800 less than he did in 2020, he will become Dawson County High School’s all-time leader in passing yards.
“In reality, all I want to do is win football games,” Holtzclaw said. “It’s just me playing football with my buddies. I don’t really pay attention to it, but my mom and dad do. They’re proud of me. It’s nice to see your name for All-Region and stuff but that’s just ‘let’s go be better next year.’”
Holtzclaw is the son of Harmony Baptist Church preacher and Tigers assistant coach Tony Holtzclaw. Growing up as the pastor’s son, Holtzclaw said he learned how to translate his faith into success on the football field, right next to his dad, waiting on the sidelines.
“That’s his thing,” Holtzclaw said. “Whatever side of the ball I was on growing up, my dad wouldn't coach that side. He’ll talk to me about it after the game, but the most my dad talks to me on the sidelines is just a good job or a good pass. Usually just high-fives.”
Being a quarterback was not always written in the stars for Holtzclaw. In fact, it wasn’t until his freshman year that Tigers’ offensive coordinator Andy LeBlanc pulled Holtzclaw out of class into the hallway to ask him if he’d be interested in changing positions within the offense.
“LeBlanc said ‘Hey, I want you to come play quarterback,’” Holtzclaw said. “When I moved up to varsity, I had only been playing quarterback for two weeks but I kind of got the sense that [LeBlanc] believed in me. That’s when I had an idea that I could be pretty good.”
That season, the Tigers coaching staff decided to go with Sevaughn Clark at quarterback, who now plays running back at the University of Georgia. Holtzclaw became the ninth grade starting quarterback and got valuable snaps before becoming the starter his sophomore season.
“When you’re younger, all you want is to play under the Friday night lights,” Holtzclaw said. “Once you get used to it, you have a calm demeanor. After the first play, you really can’t hear anything. The only time you hear anything is when you’re on the sidelines but when you’re on the field, you hear nothing. Just get the play call and get ready to go.”
Before the start of every home game, Holtzclaw kisses his mom, Elisha, and prays next to the goal post. This pregame routine has been a constant in Holtzclaw's 14 career wins, two of those in the state playoffs. Last year, Holtzclaw threw for over 2,800 passing yards and was named onto the Region 7-3A All-Region team.
Holtzclaw said he and his team are hungry for more in 2021.
“I think this team is really going to show people what heart in Dawson County is all about,” he said. “In the spring game, nobody expected us to put up 30 points and the starters only played the first half. I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people during region and preseason this year.”
Though he still has one more high school season left to play, the thought of continuing his football career collegiately hasn’t slipped Holtzclaw’s mind. He thinks he’s great at reading defenses prior to the start of each offensive snap, but acknowledges he might try to make too flashy plays throughout a game, which can often lead to turnovers.
“You can’t play football forever,” Holtzclaw said. “But if football pays for college, I’m gonna go play football. I wanna major in sports medicine or be a physical therapist. I don’t have to play right away, but I want a strong coach that has faith and believes in me as a football player.”
Holtzclaw could very well end his tenure at DCHS as the most decorated football player of all time. His end goal on the football field is to add a second region championship to the Tigers’ name, but it’s not all about football for Holtzclaw in his final season.
“Obviously, I’d like to be remembered as a football legend, but I just want to be remembered as a good young man,” Holtzclaw said. “I don’t want it to be that I was good at football but then I was a crappy person off the field and an airhead. I want to be remembered as the guy that was nice to all of my teachers and did what he was told to and always tried to do the right thing.”
Holtzclaw and the Tigers begin the 2021 season at home against Cass High School on Aug. 20, 2021.