Considering last year Dawson County came to their field and won 64-0, East Hall had some added motivation for this game.
And they showed it on the first drive.
After 2 false starts, the Spartans launched the ball down the field twice, resulting in a 35-yard reception and a 59-yard touchdown less than 2 minutes into the game. Dawson wasn’t just going to roll over on their field, as they blocked the PAT kick to keep the score at 6-0.
Dawson has multiple return men who have returned kicks for scores this year, and the Spartans obviously didn’t want to allow that, as every kickoff was a squib kick. These resulted in great field position for the Tigers, but prevented any type of long return.
Starting their drive from their own 34, the Tigers methodically drove the ball down the field with a number of short throws and runs. After about 5 minutes, Dawson had to settle for a 26-yard field goal to cut deficit to 3.
The Tigers’ defense got back on track, forcing a 3 and out. They moved the ball down the field with multiple runs and a big first down catch by #1 Dakohta Sonnichsen. Just before the end of the first quarter, #15 Isaiah Grindle pounded in a touchdown from 8 yards out to give Dawson a 10-6 lead.
Already having 3 interceptions on the season, #12 Riley Herndon added to his total on the second play of the next drive to give his offense the ball back.
Unfortunately, his offense couldn’t keep the momentum up as they went 3 and out.
East Hall got back on track in the air with a few short first downs, followed by a long heave to get the Spartans inside the 10-yard line. After a facemask call on the Tigers, East Hall ran in the 1-yard score. Since the PAT was blocked earlier, they tried to get the points back by going for 2, but failed to convert, holding their lead at only 2 points.
After another squib kick, Dawson started their drive at their own 46. Following a 1-yard run, Sonnichsen caught a screen pass and dashed past the defense 53 yards for his first score of the game.
The Vikings got their next drive started off right with a quick first down, but #7 Braedon Hubbard forced their second turnover of the game with an interception.
This time, the Tigers were able to capitalize off of the turnover. After multiple first downs, #21 Shawn Thomas took the direct snap and ran in the 2-yard touchdown to give Dawson the 24-12 lead with about 4 minutes to go.
On third down of their next drive, East Hall felt the pressure from the Dawson defensive line, as their quarterback slipped and fell for a huge loss, forcing a punt that went to the 43-yard line.
Thomas got a quick first down on a screen, but it was Sonnichsen who scored on a 26-yard touchdown reception to give Dawson the 31-12 lead.
Getting the ball back with about 10 seconds left, Dawson elected to allow #99 Caleb Bonesteel to attempt a 67-yard field goal. Attempting a kick 3 yards longer than the NFL record of 64-yards, the confidence in Bonesteel from the coaching staff speaks volumes about his ability.
The kick fell short, giving the Vikings the ball back. They tried to run out the clock, but Herndon didn’t want to end the half without getting one more big hit in to give the Tigers momentum going into the locker room.
Starting the half from the 44, #10 Zacchaeus Holtzclaw delivered a quick screen to Sonnichsen who ran it 56 yards for the touchdown. Unfortunately, it was called back by a personal foul, and the Tigers ended up going 3 and out.
After a first down by East Hall, the Dawson defense came back to life with an 80-yard pick 6 by Herndon, his second takeaway of the game.
The Vikings decided to put in a new quarterback, who fumbled the first snap, but made up for it quickly by delivering a 61-yard strike for a touchdown. East Hall went for 2 and converted on a fade to the back left corner of the endzone that was tipped by the defense but caught by the receiver as he hit the ground.
Although it seemed East Hall gained momentum, the Tigers turned the tables back in their favor, as #6 Jaden Gibson returned the squib quick for a touchdown to make their lead to 45-20 halfway through the third.
On the ensuing possession, the Vikings drove the ball down the field with multiple first downs, only to have the drive ended by a fumble that was recovered by #30 D.J. Mitchell.
However, Dawson went 3 and out quickly, as they seemed to slow the tempo down a little bit.
East Hall on the other hand kept up the pace. After multiple first downs, they ran in the score from 2 yards out. They weren’t able to convert on the 2-point attempt this time, as the score remained 45-26.
Dawson kept the ball on the ground, and this time it paid off. After multiple first down runs by Gibson and Grindle, Grindle took it to the house from 11 yards out to make the score 52-26 in favor of the Tigers.
The Vikings responded quickly on a 68-yard touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion to cut the lead to 52-34 with less than 7 minutes to go.
The Tigers run game stayed strong, as they were able to run out the clock from this point on with some well-timed first downs to give them the victory.
Dawson County will play host to GAC next Friday as they look to move to 6-1 on the season.