The first Friday of football is officially in the books as the Dawson County Tigers traveled to Cumming on Aug. 9 to face-off against the North Forsyth Raiders in their annual scrimmage.
Featuring an almost entirely rebuilt team, Dawson County fell to North Forsyth by a final score of 34-15.
The Tigers entered the game with questions lingering over several positions as they looked to fill 28 holes in the roster from last year’s team including the entire offensive and defensive lines, quarterback, running back and key players in the defensive secondary.
Addressing some of those questions before the game, coach Bradley Fowler talked about the importance of the annual scrimmage in setting the starting roster along with the challenge facing the secondary in covering the Raiders stand-out receiver Nicky Dalmolin.
“This game is really just an extension of the summer, another opportunity to evaluate the team and see what they can do,” Fowler said. “(Dalmolin) gave us problems last year. We will definitely know where he lines up on every play.”
On the opening play of the game, it appeared as if Dalmolin was going to be trouble once again as he got behind the coverage and took North Forsyth all the way downfield before he was brought down just shy of the goal line. Dawson County’s defensive line stood strong at the goal line and forced the Raiders to kick a field goal to start the night.
Although North Forsyth was able to score twice more through the air in the first half, the Tigers secondary showed flashes of brilliance as both cornerbacks, senior Will Glaze and sophomore Braedon Hubbard snagged first-half interceptions with Hubbard returning his 89-yards for the first touchdown of the game. Hubbard nearly had a second interception to open the third quarter only to see it fall to the turf as he looked for a path downfield.
“I looked up, saw the open field and thought oh, my God, I’ve got a shot at this,” Hubbard said. “On that second one, I had the same open field and I think I just got excited, looked up too soon and took my eyes of the ball.”
Fumbled snaps plagued the Tigers offense throughout the game, as four different quarterbacks, junior Maximos Moon, sophomore Zach Holtzclaw, and freshmen Keegan Stover and Jaden Gibson rotated under center, making it difficult for the team to gain momentum for any length of time in the game.
When the offense did find a rhythm, it looked as good as ever as the front-four opened big holes for running back Shawn Thomas, and wide-receivers Dakohta Sonnichsen and Alex Leblanc ran clean routes and consistently found open space in the defense.
Sonnichsen displayed his incredible speed on multiple plays, but none more so then when he raced down the far sideling to get under a 50-yard Stover pass for the Tigers only offensive touchdown of the night and bring the team to within one touchdown of the lead heading into half-time.
Backfield drops continued to be the Tigers own worst enemy on offense during the second half preventing the team from sustaining drives and Dawson County was shut-out over the final two quarters with the exception of a safety on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Director of Football Terry Haymond acknowledged that a four quarterback rotation was difficult to do well, but he went to point out that, in a scrimmage, the goal was more about gathering data and evaluating the team’s readiness for the regular season.
“What this is doing tonight is generating a lot of film on each one of those guys, and the coaching staff will start looking at that film immediately, probably tonight, to make those decisions,” Fowler said. “The good news is we have two weeks until the first regular season game to fix the things we see.”
Dawson County opens the 2019 regular season at home Aug. 23 against the Habersham Raiders with kick-off scheduled for 7:30.