The Dawson County High School varsity Tigers football team knows that it has to win in order to have a shot at the Region 8A-AA title. Despite a stagnant offense the Tigers came away with a 22-19 win over Union County (1-5; 0-3) Friday night.
The Tigers are currently 3-4 overall on the season, but more importantly are 2-1 in Region 8A-AA play.
Head Coach Jeff Lee's team went into halftime in control of a 22-6 lead, but in the second half the Tigers produced zero points on offense. Once again the game came down to the last possession before Dawson pulled out the victory.
"We should have converted two Union turnovers into points but came away with nothing," Lee said. "We left Union County in the game and they have the potential to score on anybody with what they do on offense."
Union County passed the ball a total of 49 times. The team completed 26 of those passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns. The Panthers had only 22 yards on 21 attempts rushing the ball.
Head Coach Brian Allison's Panthers got on the scoreboard first with a 42-yard field goal by Eric Hougrand with 7:54 remaining in the first quarter to take a 3-0 lead.
The Tigers answered with a drive of its own. Junior quarterback Tyler Dominy found fullback Zack Martin on a middle screen on a third and eight. Martin rambled 55-yards for a touchdown.
Max Muldoon added the extra point and Dawson led 7-3 with four minutes left in the first quarter.
Dominy finish the game 9-for-19 for 158 yards and three touchdowns.
"Tyler's numbers aren't large," Lee said. "But he did do a good job of running the offense for us."
Dawson's defense forced a three-and-out by the Panthers on its next possession.
It took only four plays for the Tigers to score the team's second touchdown of the evening. Dominy found Bruce Clark on a 35-yard pass to give Dawson a commanding 13-3 lead.
Muldoon kicked his second extra point of the game to push Dawson to a 14-3 advantage with 2:26 left in the first quarter.
On Union's next drive, Tigers linebacker Cody Smith intercepted a pass at the 35-yard line. It was the first of two picks for Smith in the game.
The Tigers mounted another drive down to Union's 20-yard line. On fourth and 14 Muldoon attempted a 37-yard field goal. The kick sailed just off to the left, thwarting a chance for Dawson to increase its lead.
Union capitalized and went on an 11-play scoring drive. The Tigers defense withstood the challenge and stopped Union on fourth and 11 from the 11-yard line. Hougrand connected on his second field goal of the game from 37-yards out to trim Dawson's lead to 14-6.
The Dominy to Clark combination connected again with just 2:40 before halftime. Clark scored from 30-yards out for his second touchdown of the night. Lee decided to try a two point conversion. It turned out to be a good decision. Martin powered his way into the end zone and gave his team a 22-6 lead.
Clark finished the night with five catches for 85 yards and two scores.
Dawson was in complete control at intermission both offensively and defensively. However, in the second half the Tigers just couldn't find a way to put the football in the end zone.
"We knew that Union had a good defense [from] watching them on film," Lee said. "They proved that in the second half against us tonight. We have got to take turnovers and convert them into points."
Turnovers, by both teams, were a factor in the third quarter. Dominy fumbled and it was recovered by the Panthers and the Union quarterback threw an interception to Cody Smith for the second turnover of the quarter.
"Those were two big picks by Cody [Smith]. He stopped two of Union's drives with those interceptions. He really did a good job for us," Lee said of his linebacker.
There was no more scoring until the 8:02 mark of the final quarter. The Panthers scored a touchdown on a 14-yard pass. The two point conversion was not good and Union trailed 22-12.
Dawson was forced to punt on its next possession. Muldoon nailed a perfect punt down to the 1-yard line.
Union then went on a 12-play, 99-yard drive for its second touchdown of the quarter. The extra point was good and Union had cut the lead to 22-19 with 1:45 remaining.
The Panthers tried an onside kick, but it was recovered by the Tigers. All Dawson had to do was run out the clock, but Union still had three timeouts.
"We missed two key blocking assignments. We were trying to run out the clock but ended up punting the ball back to Union," Lee said.
After four plays Union moved the ball to the Dawson 49-yard line. Dawson's defense came up strong with two big sacks by Bruce Clark, Cale Tallant and Cole Waters. The clock finally hit zero and Dawson came away with a huge Region 8A-AA win.
"Bruce [Clark] had been getting some reps on defense for the last couple of weeks," Lee said. "When we put him in the game he thought he was going to safety. I told him to go to defensive line and get a sack. Boy did the defense come through at the end."
Martin finished the game with another big night running the football. He had 16 rushes for 107 yards and a touchdown.
His running mate at fullback, Cody Smith, also had a good game rushing. Smith tallied 58 yards on eight carries.
Dawson's offense amassed 346 total yards. The Tigers played a balanced game. The team gained 198 yards on the ground and 158 yards through the air.
Up next for Dawson County will be a very athletic and tough East Hall team. The Vikings were physically beaten up by Fannin County last week. The Vikings lost to the Rebels, 35-19.
Friday night will be homecoming for the Tigers and kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Tigers Stadium.