The Dawson County Tigers secured a spot in the state playoffs on Friday with their win over the East Hall Vikings.
The 38-24 victory also preserved the Tigers perfect record in region play while eliminating the Vikings from the playoff picture.
The Dawson County defense kept the Tigers in the game early after two fumbles and the inability to get the offense going early.
"Things weren't clicking. We weren't able to hold onto the ball offensively for some reason," said Head Coach Sid Maxwell. "That's what happens when one part of your game struggles, hopefully the other side picks up. If not, then you are probably going to be beat.
"When you jump up like we did against Fannin, up 52-0, you don't have to worry about playing defense much," he said. "It was just a tale of two cities this week. You are not going to beat the good teams playing like that."
Maxwell said that he challenged the players to not get complacent after the success to this point.
"We do the same thing," he said. "It's like ‘Karate Kid' for me, if you do it, but don't focus on it then you get sloppy. I think we were sloppy Friday."
The Tigers defense had three goal line stands on the night in a tough first half on the offensive side of the ball.
The first Viking possession of the game was ended by a Noah Brock interception and the Tigers got on the board courtesy of a Cole Dennis field goal with 9:40 in the first quarter.
That was the only score of the first half.
East Hall's next drive picked up a little more steam with Austin Parker connecting with Amir Ellison. Dawson's defense stiffened and the Vikings turned the ball over on downs after a failed fourth down attempt on a Parker keeper.
After a three and out the Tiger D held the Vikings again, but did not get any rest after a fumble on first and 10 on the next possession.
Senior running back, Nasser Clark, in his first game for the Tigers, lost the ball twice for Dawson County.
"He tried to do too much too early," Maxwell said. "He dropped the ball twice...Once bad things happen, got to get it back to them. Got to overcome it."
Clark overcame it and ended the night with 106 yards rushing including a 43-yard touchdown run.
The Vikings were able to drive the field twice more in the first half but both times could not get in the end zone thanks to the efforts of the Tigers defense.
Dawson County got the ball at the start of the second half and that was when Clark and Payton Myers went to work for the Tigers behind the blocking from the offensive line.
"Our offensive line is the strength of our offense and we will continue to look to them to lead us going forward," said Offensive Coordinator Andy LeBlanc. "We will go as far as the offensive line will take us an offense."
Myers got in the end zone for the first of his two touchdowns on the night to make it 10-0 with 9:17 left in the third quarter.
Myers rushed 20 times for 111 yards.
The Vikings struck back quickly on a 72-yard touchdown pass from Parker to Markese Jackson. The 2-point conversion was good and with 8:28 in the third, Dawson held a thin 10-8 lead.
After Dawson could not move the ball, the Vikings again went to Jackson for another touchdown in the third quarter and another 2-point conversion to take the lead at 16-10.
The ensuing Dawson drive saw Coey Watson connect with Austin Young and Nick Murphy before Watson scored on a keeper. The Tigers took the lead back with 3:52 in the third at 17-16.
Young had two catches for 30 yards and Murphy had three for 39 yards.
The defense again got the ball back for the Tiger offense when Colin Glover intercepted Parker just outside of the Viking's end zone.
The Tigers took over at the 5-yard line.
After completions to Young and Glass, Myers took off on a 36-yard touchdown run. Watson kept the ball for a 2-point conversion to give Dawson a 25-16 lead with 10:13 in the game.
The Vikings took the next kickoff to the 35-yard line before a tipped Parker pass would be intercepted by Jakob Scoggins.
Myers running helped sustain the following drive before Watson would score on another keeper. The PAT was no good, but the Tigers stretched their lead to 31-16 with 7:12 left.
After yet another defensive stop, Clark came up with a 43-yard run for another Tiger touchdown.
With 3:14 in the game, the score was 38-16.
East Hall managed to put one more score on the board with 1:05 left in the game and Dawson County took home the 38-24 win.
The Tigers are now 6-1 overall and 4-0 in region play.
"We get to play game 11," Maxwell said. "Now we are playing for home field."
Friday the Tigers will take on region rivals, Lumpkin County. Lumpkin is 4-4 overall and 2-2 in 7-AAA but is also coming off a big win against Fannin County. The Indians won 63-37 on Oct 21.
"What they do, it doesn't stretch us. It can bother us, but not as much as what East Hall did," Maxwell said. "Lumpkin is a rival game. It's going to be a tough game."
With the win, the Tigers will secure home field advantage in the state playoffs.
A win against Lumpkin would also set up a showdown between undefeated region teams as Dawson hosts Greater Atlanta Christian on Nov. 4 for senior night.
GAC got a win last week over North Hall 42-14 and has a bye week on Oct. 28.