With a convincing first round win in the Class AAA state playoffs over the Hart County Bulldogs, the Dawson County Tigers now move on to face the Cedar Grove Saints on Friday.
Dawson County advanced winning 49-14 on Nov. 10.
“It was a good win,” said Head Coach Sid Maxwell. “They were in shock and awe after winning 70 nothing the week before. Boys played well. They bounced back and competed after GAC.”
“You are looking at a football team that was region runner up and won a playoff game at home,” Maxwell said. “They just keep validating their success and helping the program keep consistency. My hats off to this coaching staff, and the players and this community for allowing Dawson County to be a very good football program.”
Despite a slow opening, the Tigers picked up steam in the first quarter and exerted their will from that point on.
The Tigers and Bulldogs traded early three and outs and fumbles before Dawson County would sustain a drive that started at the Bulldog 46.
Quarterback Coey Watson and running back Vaughn Clark exchanged running opportunities behind the Tigers’ offensive line who were able to hold the advantage up front throughout.
“The offensive line has continued to get better over the course of the season,” said Offensive Coordinator Andy LeBlanc. “These kids work hard each and every week knowing their job almost always goes unnoticed. I always start the season by letting the offense know we will go as far as our offensive line will take us.”
The starting front of Dawson Dominy, Harley Grizzle, Jake Williams, Mathew McCrackin, Ethan Smith and Justin Butler were without Butler due to injury last week.
“The success of the offense throughout the year is a direct reflection of how our offensive line has performed,” LeBlanc said. “Coach Kenny has them prepared each week and I know they will give everything they have every Friday night. I can't say enough of how tremendous they have been for us this year.”
At first and goal, Clark came just shy of the end zone and Watson ran in the first of his three touchdowns of the night with 4:47 in the first period. The Tigers went for the 2-point conversion but were unsuccessful.
The Bulldogs had a sustained drive on the next possession that began with a kickoff return by Jerrontay Morrison to their own 35.
Quarterback O’neal Anderson found Johnathan Dekle and a personal foul on the Tigers would give the Bulldogs extra yardage along first and goal at the 8.
“Great to see us play fast and on a mission,” said Defensive Coordinator Brent Cox. “We continue to have penalties at key times which must be eliminated for our game against Cedar Grove.”
Logan Brumbelow sacked quarterback Luke Lee who came as the Bulldogs alternated play callers regularly. With third and 13, Hart County was able to score on a pass to Jalen Brown with 1:57 in the first and the point after gave them the lead at 7-6.
Dawson County’s next drive would continue with dominance up front and Clark finding the openings. Watson completed to Ryan Glass just after the end of the first quarter and a late hit took the Tigers to the 16.
Clark ran in the next score for Dawson County. Another 2-point conversion failed and the Tigers led 12-7 with 11:35 in the second quarter.
Clark finished the night with 19 carries for 260 yards and three touchdowns.
Hart’s ensuing drive was abruptly halted by a Brumbelow interception giving the Tigers a short field at the 50, but Dawson could not convert.
Brumbelow had 11 tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception.
The Dawson defense went back to work with a Jason Browning sack and another near interception.
This time the Tigers started at the 47 and Watson found Glass for a 50-yard touchdown. Watson went 9-for-13 on the night for 123 yards through the air.
He added another 79 on the ground.
Glass had 74 yards receiving.
Peyton Allen’s point after made it 19-7 with 5:33 until half.
The next Hart County drive was backed up after a Taylor Swofford sack and a flag on the Bulldogs. They were forced to put it away.
At half it was 19-7, Dawson.
Dawson opened the second half with a drive that saw Clark carry it five times before a Watson keeper put 6 more up and the Allen extra point made it 26-7.
Hart County drove the field on the next possession and the Tigers had stops by Swofford, Logan Barnes, Brody Howell and Nate Umberger.
Anderson’s next carry just beyond the goal resulted in a fumble that Dawson recovered. The Tigers would begin at their own 2 after another personal foul backed them up.
Unable to get out of their own territory, the Tigers punted the ball into the back of one its own players and the Bulldogs used it to their advantage. Anderson found P.J. Rucker from 5 yards out to make it 26-14.
The Bulldogs would not score again.
Dawson quickly drove the field with two completions to Cameron and Clark’s running. A completion to Hunter Barron would put the Tigers at the 4-yard line and Watson added another on a keeper.
With 1:06 in the third, it was 33-14.
The next Bulldog drive was short-circuited by a Noah Brock interception and the Tigers took over at the 29.
Clark would cap off the drive with a 33-yard touchdown run. The point after took it to 40-14 in favor of the Tigers.
A three-and-out for Hart County would give Dawson the ball again at their own 21. That’s when Clark broke free for a 79-yard touchdown run—his third touchdown of the game.
The Dawson defense would finish off the Bulldogs with sacks from Zac Baloga and Jacob Frady as well as a safety.
The win sends the Tigers to the Sweet Sixteen of the Class AAA state tournament to face Cedar Grove (11-0, 7-0) who defeated Adairsville 48-13 at Godfrey Stadium Friday.
“There are 16 teams left and it doesn’t get any easier,” Maxwell said. “Obviously we got a pretty hard draw with the former state champions. We will see where we are in the program. It is a great measuring stick. It will help develop our program and help it grow. Rather aim high and miss than aim low and hit.”
Dawson County will travel Nov. 17 for a 7:30 p.m. kick in Ellenwood.
The Tigers are now 8-3 overall.
“Cedar Grove is incredibly talented,” LeBlanc said. “They are very big up front and very athletic at just about every position. It will take all eleven players working as one each and every play for us to be successful. I have tremendous confidence in our guys and know we will give exceptional effort this week. This is a great opportunity for us and can't wait to see our kids compete like I know they can.”
“The coaches at Cedar Grove have done an excellent job with this program and we must play penalty free with a fast read mentality,” Cox said. “I love this group of young men – what a great job they have done so far.”