Tigers 49, Vikings 7
Difference maker: Dawson County running back Zack Martin rushed for four touchdowns and 105 yards.
Stat that matters: Six turnovers by the East Hall offense, leading to 35 Dawson County points.
Turning point: After Dawson County’s opening drive stalled, East Hall fumbled on its first play of the game and the Tigers recovered and scored soon after.
Who’s next: Dawson County travels to Rabun County, East Hall hosts Banks County.
DAWSONVILLE — All Dawson County wanted this season was a chance to reach the state playoffs.
With a 49-7 win over East Hall Friday night at Tiger Stadium, the Tigers have that chance, having assured themselves of a top-three finish in subregion 8-AA North and a spot in a region play-in game in two weeks.
“At the beginning of the season this was our goal,” said Dawson County quarterback Tyler Dominy. “All we wanted was a chance to make the
Dominy is one of the top quarterbacks in the area in passing, but Friday he could do no wrong simply by handing the ball off to running back Zack Martin, who ran for four touchdowns and 105 yards on 15 carries.
Dawson County (4-4, 3-1 Region 8-AA North) and East Hall (4-4, 2-2) entered Friday’s game tied for second place in 8-AA North behind Banks County.
The Tigers proved very early on which team deserved to hold on to second place, scoring on all but one of their first-half drives to take a 35-0 lead at the half.
It was a welcome sight for Dawson County coach Jeff Lee, who had seen his team lose two close games this season in the fourth quarter.
“It was nice,” Lee said. “I told the team before that on odds it would be a close game.
“This was a good effort all around.”
The game came down to a simple football axiom: Hang on to the football. Dawson County wouldn’t let go, and East Hall couldn’t hang on, throwing three interceptions and fumbling the ball away three more times.
“Six turnovers will get you every time,” said East Hall coach Bryan Gray. “They were, by far, the better team.”
The Tigers turned those turnovers into 35 points, including four touchdowns off turnovers in the first half alone. Brandon Seay, Jackson Putnam and Bruce Clark all hauled in interceptions.
It made all the difference in a game in which East Hall churned out 268 total yards but held Dawson County to just a few more total yards (312).
With its second subregion loss in a row, East Hall falls to third in the subregion, still in play for a play-in game.
But the Vikings will either have to defeat North leader Banks County (7-1, 4-0) next week or hope for some help to have a shot at the postseason.
East Hall — playing without a number of players due to injury, including running back Austen Mahaffey, who is out for the season with a knee injury — couldn’t take advantage of yet another strong performance by senior running back Jamond Witt, who compiled a team-high 190 yards and scored the Vikings lone touchdown on 16 carries.
By the time Witt scored, on the opening play of the second half, the deficit was still 28 points.
When Martin added his fourth touchdown on a 41-yard run just 10 second later, Dawson had proved it would not let the big lead slip away.
The Tigers built the lead on a near-perfect first half. Dawson County scored on all but one of its six drives before halftime.
But on the first drive of the game, Dawson County was forced to punt after crossing midfield on a promising drive.
In essence, the 26-yard punt by sophomore Max Muldoon was just a long first-down pass, because East Hall fumbled at the 15-yard line and the home team had the ball once again.
The Tigers took advantage three plays later on a 6-yard run by running back Zack Martin.
It was that kind of night for East Hall in a game that looked far too much like last week’s 35-19 loss to Fannin County, only the Vikings didn’t cross the goal line even once in the first half. East Hall turned the ball over four times in the first half, including two fumbles, an interception and a turnover on downs.
Dawson County took advantage every time, turning the four turnovers into 28 first-half points. Martin led the way with three touchdowns and 53 yards rushing on 12 carries. Dominy completed 7 of 8 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown in the half.
The star signal caller is expected to be a threat passing the ball, but it sophomore receiver Keaton Toal got in on the act as well when he took a pitch from Dominy and fired a 29-yard touchdown pass to junior Mitchell Putnam to put the home team ahead 14-0 with 3:15 left in the first quarter.
The touchdown came soon after the Vikings’ second fumble of the game, ending their second drive the same way they ended the first.