The Dawson County High School football banquet was another reminder of the mission of the program under Head Coach Sid Maxwell-it is a family and the development of the players as people is a top priority.
The high school cafeteria was packed with family and friends for an early dinner on Dec. 11. Immediately following the meal, the large group headed to the Performing Arts Center for the awards ceremony to recognize eighth grade, ninth grade, junior varsity and varsity level players.
The number of awards given to volunteers, boosters, board members and the like was a stark reminder of what it takes as a community to have a successful football program. It was also a reminder of how much goes into the game outside of what goes on on the field.
The commitment of the community, coaches, parents and school are all integral components and Maxwell made sure to acknowledge the efforts of so many supporters.
The Tigers are coming off a 7-3 season, where they finished 5-1 in region play, as well as Region 7-AAA runners up in Maxwell's second year at Dawson County High School.
Coordinating all the moving parts of a program that size is neither simple nor easy.
Russell Davis, the character coach for the program, emceed the awards and took time to thank coaches and their wives and families who give up so much to further the program.
"You know a football team is only as great as its coaches and a coach oftentimes is only as great as his family. Great programs have great families and no doubt that is what we have here at Dawson County. We have great families," Davis said.
The 34 seniors sat on stage as players were honored in a number of categories including most valuable defensive player, most valuable offensive player, most improved, coach's award and top performers.
From the eighth grade team, Kincade Weaver was named most valuable defensive player and Max Moon was most valuable on offense. Brock Bearden was named most improved and Brendan Swafford received the Coaches Award. Dakhota Sonnichsen was recognized as top performer.
On the ninth grade team, DJ Mitchell was the most valuable on defense and Shawn Thomas for offense. The most improved was Bryce Bryant and the Coaches Award went to Brody Howell. Hunter Barron was named the top performer.
For the junior varsity team, Zac Baloga earned most valuable on defense while Robbie Rarick received the honor for offense. Rarick accounted for four touchdowns in the Tigers' win over Flowery Branch and posted a 55-yard touchdown run.
Most improved on offense went to Trey Pruitt and on defense was Allen McClean. Raymond Vassack won the Coaches Award.
At the varsity level, Maxwell acknowledged the academic achievement of senior player Barry Thurmond who carries a 4.29 GPA. Thurmond was the top academic performer.
The Coaches Award on offense went to senior Wyatt McMahon. For the defense, Colin Glover received the Coaches Award.
The Tiger Award is given to players who have given back to the community through their efforts. Brise Henson, Payton Myers and Dustin Ray were honored.
The coaches also gave most improved on offense to Tyler Womack and most improved on defense to Logan Barnes.
For the Ironwill Award, Trey Dixon and Matt Steward were named on the offensive side while Jordan Hannah was recognized on the defensive side.
The Sandy Walls Award is named for former Dawson County player and coach. He was killed in an accident in 1994 and the family asked that the award be given to a player that shows leadership, integrity and puts the team first. Corey Hammond was this year's winner.
The top performer on special teams was senior Kolton Brumbelow. He returned three kickoffs for touchdowns over the course of the season.
Top performer for a defensive lineman went to Taylor Swofford and top performer at linebacker was senior Clint Garrett.
Senior Dylan Nix was named top performer at defensive back.
Another senior, Jordan Waddell, was awarded top performer for offensive line.
The top performer for offensive skill was senior Nick Murphy.
There were no surprises for the outstanding team performers on offense and defense. The coaches honored Luke Martin and Jeremy Whalen on defense and Coey Watson and Austin Young on offense.
Luke Martin finished the season with 185 tackles.
Whalen averaged 10 tackles a game and had three interceptions.
Quarterback Watson accounted for 2,500 yards combined rushing and passing as well as 34 touchdowns on the season.
Senior Young had over 800 yards receiving while averaging 18 yards a catch.
The final award was the Golden Helmet Award given Sawyer Smith, who, due to illness was unable to compete his senior season.
"I know memories are something we all cherish. I know these young men made memories for me that I will cherish," Maxwell said.
"Thank you for all you have done. I always tell people the true measure of greatness is consistency. We have to go back to work, from the booster club to the community to the football team to be consistent."
The awards concluded with a highlight film recapping the season.