It was a battle until the final buzzer sounded. The Riverview Eagles and Dawson County Tigers were friends before and after the game, but during the game both teams slugged it out.
Before a capacity crowd at Riverview Middle School, the Eagles were triumphant, coming away with a 14-12 win.
“The energy in the stadium was electric. It was by far the largest crowd I have ever seen at a middle school game,” said Riverview coach Mark Thomason.
“I thought the game was an instant classic. It was a hard fought game between teams that were filled with friends on both sides. The game was close from the very beginning and I felt like we took control in the second half,” Thomason added.
Dawson scored first on a 7-yard touchdown run with 4:39 left in the first quarter. The extra point was no good, giving the Tigers a quick 6-0 lead.
On the ensuing kick-off, Drew Bishop scampered 75-yards for an apparent touchdown. However, the score was called back on a block-in-the-back penalty.
Riverview set up shop on the Dawson 39-yard line. The Eagles drove all the way down to the Tiger three-yard line before coughing up the football. Clayton Chester recovered the fumble for the Tigers.
At the end of one period it was the Tigers led 6-0.
Riverview’s defense stiffened, forcing Dawson to punt.
Eagle quarterback Jonah Martin found the end zone on a 3-yard run tying the score at 6-6. The extra point was good and with 4:15 remaining before half time, Riverview held a 7-6 lead.
Dawson mounted an attack just before halftime. On fourth down, quarterback Jackson Putnam heaved a desperation pass toward the end zone where it was intercepted by Martin, ending the first half.
Riverview extended its lead with 2:30 in the third quarter. Martin found running back Scotty Zadernak for a 21-yard TD pass.
After a penalty on the extra point, backing them up 5-yards, Bishop came on and kicked the ball through the up rights. The Eagles were in control 14-6.
Coach Thomy Edwards and his Tiger team never gave up.
Dawson launched a long, time-consuming drive of 70 yards.
The drive was marred by numerous penalties but the Tigers scored with 2:15 to go in the game from one-yard out, cutting the Riverview lead to 14-12.
On the 2-point conversion, a flag was thrown moving the Tigers back 5-yards.
The penalty proved costly as Putnam completed a pass, but the receiver was tackled just short of the goal line.
“Our guys never quit,” said Edwards. “We played OK, but just had some mental mistakes. We will fix those mental mistakes this week.”
The Tigers tried an onside kick. Bishop handled the kick cleanly. Riverview tried to kill the clock, but poor time management gave the ball back to Dawson with 39 seconds remaining.
Putnam was sacked twice during the drive. The clock struck zero and the Eagles celebrated.
Thomason remarked about his offense: “Scotty (Zadernak) caught a big touchdown pass from quarterback Jonah Martin. Scotty led our team in rushing and receiving yards. He ran hard and gave everything he had. Jonah Martin did a great job throwing and running the ball.”
Defensively, Thomason said: “Jacob Lord, at middle linebacker, had a big ball game. It seemed as if he was in every tackle. He had double digits in tackles.”
“I thought Keaton Toal played really well from his running back position. I also liked the play of running back Matthew Hamil. Matthew stepped up and did a really good job. On defense, I thought Caleb Stepp played well,” said Dawson County Middle School Coach Edwards about his team’s effort.
Thursday, Dawson County Middle School will play Gilmer County at home, while the Riverview Eagles will travel to Pickens County Middle School. Both games will kickoff at 5 p.m.
“I thought, overall, we played well enough to win. I was happy to see how we responded with being down, and how we responded to turning the ball over. We still have a long way to go. Next week will be a true test when we visit Pickens. They are a strong team and fast. It will give us an idea of where we are compared to the other teams in the region,” remarked Thomason.
“We have to learn to wrap up and not let the other team get positive yards. Special teams is another area in which we must improve. Overall, I thought our players stayed composed under the conditions,” said Edwards.