It was supposed to be an easy win for Dawson County.
The team had just gone through three weeks of difficult competition before last Friday night's match-up with Rabun County.
Rabun County was coming into the game with a winless record, and on paper, it should have been an "easy" win for Dawson County High School Head Football Coach Jeff Lee's Tigers.
The old adage about "you must play the game" came true at Tiger Stadium. The Wildcats jumped out to a 19-0 lead and the Tigers just didn't have enough time to catch them, losing by a final of 26-18.
With their fourth straight loss, Dawson fell to 1-4 overall and 0-4 in Region 8-AA.
This week they must get on the bus and travel two hours to Lexington to face the 1-4 Patriots of Oglethorpe County.
Oglethorpe lost to Fannin County 55-17 last week.
Kelsey Boyle took the opening kick-off to the Tiger 26-yard line. On the second play from scrimmage, quarterback Chase Gilreath fumbled, allowing a Rabun defender to jump on the ball at the Dawson 24-yard line.
It only took six plays before the Wildcats capitalized on the Dawson turnover.
Rabun scored on a fullback dive from 4-yards out for the initial touchdown. The extra point was no good, making the score 6-0 at the 7:53 mark of the first quarter.
Dawson was forced to punt on its next offensive possession.
The Wildcats moved the ball from the 50-yard line down to the Tiger 7-yard line when a hit jarred the ball loose from the Wildcat ball carrier.
Tiger linebacker Stephen King recovered, to give Dawson the ball at the 20-yard line.
The Tigers couldn't pick up a first down and ended up having to punt the ball back to Rabun County.
Rabun wasted no time going on a 10 play drive that ate up almost five minutes of clock.
Two big running plays by the Wildcats put them in scoring position. Wildcat running back Dillon Bennett and Daniel Campbell picked up 19 and 26 yards respectively on back-to-back plays, which put the ball down at the Dawson 5-yard line.
Campbell went untouched into the end zone. Rabun went for a 2-point conversion, but Evan Weatherford made a great tackle to stop the score.
With 5:35 left before halftime Dawson was down 12-0.
The Wildcats forced Dawson to punt on their offensive series. David Scully nailed a 35-yard punt down to the Wildcat 32-yard line.
Oglethorpe County Head Coach Danny Durham's team took over possession with 3:06 remaining in the second quarter.
Campbell broke runs of 7 and 33 yards to take the ball down to the Tiger 34-yard line.
Senior Wildcat quarterback Matthew Henry connected with his receiver for a 33-yard touchdown with only 21.2 seconds remaining before half. The extra point was good and Rabun took a 19-0 lead into the locker room.
Lee and his offense didn't start any better in the third quarter.
Gilreath dropped back to pass on the second play from scrimmage and threw an interception to Campbell.
Rabun took over at its own 49-yard line. Three plays later, Campbell found pay dirt from 38 yards out. The extra point was right down the middle and Rabun held a commanding 26-0 lead with 8:11 to go in the third quarter.
Dawson didn't stop fighting. On the kick-off senior Tommy Lin caught the ball at the 24-yard line and raced untouched 76-yards for an exciting touchdown.
Scully added the extra point and Dawson cut into the Wildcat lead 26-7.
Momentum was starting to turn in Dawson's favor.
Defensive coordinator Van Samples’ defense began to step up forcing a 20-yard Rabun punt. The Tigers had the ball on Rabun's 36-yard line.
Gilreath had a hand in every play on the drive. He ran 24 yards and hooked up with receivers TJ Byrd, for 5 yards, and finally to Cody Tobias for a 6-yard touchdown pass. Lee decided to try for a 2-point conversion.
Gilreath found Byrd at the goal line, the score cut the Wildcat lead to 26-15 with 1:34 in the third quarter remaining.
The Tiger sideline was pumped. Dawson's defense forced a three and out to give their offense another chance.
Dawson's Gilreath took over again. The Tigers moved the ball from their own 33-yard line down to the Wildcat 31 yard line, where the offense stalled out.
Scully lined up for a 47-yard field goal that just barely crossed the cross bar to bring the score to 26-18 in favor of Rabun County.
The game ended with a score at 26-18. Dawson had two more chances to add points, but unfortunately, came up empty.
Lee hopes to get back some injured players for this week's game.
He had to shake up the offensive line due to injuries to Zach Johnson,
Alan Boeke and center John Knudsen.
All three are on a day-to-day basis.
The Tigers will take on Oglethorpe County, away, on Friday. Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
E-mail Pam Jacobs at firstname.lastname@example.org.