The Dawson County High School varsity Tigers football team struggled Friday night at White County High School.
Head Coach Jeff Lee's offense managed just 20 total yards in the first half and 92 in the second half. Despite the team's five turnovers, three fumbles and two interceptions, the Tigers still managed to keep the game close.
Dawson County's defensive coordinator Jed Lacey kept the Warriors at bay most of the evening. The Tiger defense limited White to just 190 total yards in the 17-10 Tigers loss.
Time after time the Tiger defense shut down the running attack for White County, despite having to defend a short field all evening.
With the loss, Dawson County must win its two remaining Region 7-AAA games against Fannin County, on Friday night, and West Hall on Nov. 9. Both games will be played at Tigers Stadium in Dawsonville.
The Tigers are currently 4-4 overall and 2-3 in region play. White County moved to 6-2 and, more importantly, 4-1, in the region.
If Dawson County can win the last two games, the team will qualify for the State Class AAA playoffs for the second year in a row.
"I thought our defense played extremely hard all night. Minus two scoring drives for 10 points. I thought we played physical and fast," Lee said.
Lee said the team's offense was out of rhythm.
"On offense we never got into our rhythm. Three fumbles and two interceptions will disrupt any offense," he said.
Both teams were forced to punt on their opening drives.
On Dawson County's first play on its second possession, quarterback Zack Buchan completed a pass to wide receiver Dalton Edwards for a 4-yard gain. Edwards was stripped of the ball, giving possession back to White on the Dawson County 20-yard line.
Four plays later, fullback Dalton Whitfield found the end zone from 14-yards out for the opening touchdown.
Wesley Saunders added the extra point and White took a 7-0 lead with 6:10 remaining in the first quarter.
Dawson's second possession was marred by its second turnover of the evening. Tigers running back Zach Guy dropped the ball trying for extra yardage on the 22-yard line.
This time the Tiger defense came up strong. Warrior quarterback AJ Vandiver was intercepted by Tigers linebacker Kyle Hayes at the 38-yard line giving the ball back to Dawson County.
The Dawson offense couldn't do anything with the turnover and was forced to punt.
White County went on its second drive of the game. After nine plays, all running plays, the Tigers forced White County to try a 49-yard field goal by Saunders. The kick was short and the Warriors held a 7-0 advantage at halftime.
Coach Bill Ballard's team opened the third quarter with a 13-play drive, once again all running plays. Lacey's defense forced the Warriors to try a field goal from 35-yards out. This time Saunders nailed the kick to give White a 10-0 lead with 5:03 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers mounted their own drive, but it came to an end when Buchan was intercepted by Warrior Coley Loudermilk.
Buchan had an off-night. He completed just four of 14 passes for 38 yards.
Lee went into his bag of tricks to open the fourth quarter. Buchan completed a short pass to Jackson Putnam who then flipped the ball to Chris Sayler. Sayler sprinted 38-yards all the way down to the White County 28-yard line.
The Dawson offense stalled and was forced to kick a 31-yard field goal.
Senior Max Muldoon was true and the Tigers trailed 10-3 with 9:36 left in the game.
Dalton Whitfield for White County capped off an 8-play drive that consumed nearly four minutes on the clock to score his second touchdown of the game from 10-yards out. Saunders added the extra point to make the score 17-3.
On the ensuing kickoff, Sayler caught the ball at the 5-yard line. He dodged several Warrior defenders and raced 95-yards for a Dawson County touchdown. The extra point was tacked on by Muldoon and the Tigers trailed 17-10 with 5:34 remaining in the game.
Sayler also had a productive day on offense. The senior carried the football eight times for 50 yards.
Neither team added any more points and the Tigers lost the close game.
"This week we will focus on keeping play fast and physical on defense. On offense we need them to find ways to be more consistent. The fundamentals will be stressed early in the week. As the week progresses we will hone in on our game plan to beat the Rebels, " Lee said.
Up next will be a home game with Fannin County. The Rebels lost to Buford, 45-8, on Friday night. Fannin is 2-6 on the season and is coached by Greg Chambers.
The Rebels will run a spread offense and a 4-3 on defense.
"The Rebels have always played us tough," Lee said.
Key players for Fannin include quarterback Trevor Stone (6-0, 205 Sr.), running back/corner back Jacob Greer (5-8, 160 Jr.) and wide receiver Dominik Leben (6-0, 150 So.).
Fannin is averaging 13 points per game on offense while giving up an average of 40 points per game on defense.
"There is still a lot of football left to be played this season," Lee said.
Kick off will be at 7:30 p.m. at Tigers Stadium in Dawsonville.