Behind senior Nathan Blythe’s two second-half goals, the Dawson County High School varsity Tigers were able to snap a four-game losing streak with a 2-1 come-from-behind win over rival Lumpkin County March 27 at Tigers Stadium.
The Indians (7-6, 3-3 Region 7-AAA) took the lead early with a goal less than eight minutes into the contest, and after losing their last four games by a combined score of 16-3, that early goal could’ve crushed the Tigers' psyche. But Dawson County (4-6, 2-2 Region 7-AAA) hung tough, creating several Grade A chances throughout the game, but still trailed 1-0 with under 20 minutes to go.
Time was running short when Blythe took the ball upfield. Dribbling toward the center off the pitch, just outside the penalty box, the senior was looking to make a cross. That’s when a teammate yelled ‘shoot it.’
Blythe obliged, nailing a long-range shot that curved perfectly around the outstretched hand of the Lumpkin keeper into the far upper corner of the net.
With the game now tied 1-1, Dawson County caught a break when a Lumpkin County player lost his cool in the middle of a scrum near midfield, throwing a punch to earn an automatic red card. The Indians would now have to play the final 16:16 down a player to the Tigers.
“Our first though was that we want to put as much pressure on as we possibly could,” said Coach Derek Waters about going up a man late in the game. “But at the same time, we don’t want to be vulnerable to a counter…so we wanted to keep as much pressure on them while still being able to protect and defend as well as we could.”
Fortunately for Waters and the rest of the Tigers, they didn’t have to wait long before they were able to capitalize on Lumpkin’s mistake.
Just over three minutes after Lumpkin County’s player was sent off, Blythe found himself with the ball in the middle of the field. The senior created just enough space between himself and the defender for a turnaround shot on goal.
The shot seemed to surprise the Lumpkin keeper who watched it go into the bottom corner of the net.
Upon realizing what just happened, Blythe fell to his knees and was immediately mobbed by his teammates in jubilation.
“It’s hard for me to explain how good I felt there,” said Waters about watching Blythe score the eventual game-winning goal. “Especially after coming off the slump that we’ve been on. We lost four games in a row, we were really struggling, we’ve been preaching to our guys all week in practice to just pull it together as a team and support one another.
“And to see things just kind of fall into place and everybody start to mesh and click in that game was exciting. Heart rate pumping. It was a lot of excitement going on there.”
The timing couldn’t have been move perfect for Blythe as shortly after he scored the deciding goal, the senior had to leave the field due to cramping in his leg.
Up a man, up a goal and with just ten minutes remaining, Dawson County was able to control possession to run out the clock and secure an important region win over the Indians.
“It’s always that fine line where you don’t want to over-amp a game or overdue the hype for a game,” said Waters about the importance of this win. “You want (the players) to come in and be somewhat relaxed but focused while they play, but our guys were well aware. It’s a huge rivalry game and any kind of postseason implications were heavily weighted on this game, especially for us.
“This was huge for us to keep our hopes alive to still have a chance to make a run and finish up well in the region and make a shot for a playoff run.”