DAWSONVILLE — The victory flag is up at Tiger Stadium, and the Dawson County football team stands atop Region 7-AAA.
The flag’s not coming down until a loss, and the Tigers’ aren’t planning on that anytime soon.
Dawson County shut down region opponent East Hall 42-0 Friday at Tiger Stadium, notching a W in the win column a week before most teams in the state had a chance — and well before the normal start of region play.
“Hopefully it sends a strong statement to the rest of the region,” said Dawson County senior quarterback Tyler Dominy, who accounted for four total touchdowns.
He credited the defense with leading the way.
“The defense played amazing,” he said. “Best I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”
Even after the loss of two senior starters due to injury in the first series — linebacker Cody Smith and defensive lineman Cale Tallant — the backups held up the shutout.
Dawson County coach Jeff Lee said the prognosis for both players, who he called the “heart and souls of the defense,” wasn’t good. It was one of the few downsides to a nearly perfect night.
“If we executed well, that’s the result I was hoping for,” Lee said. “We’re No. 1 in the region, and now our job is to stay there.”
The Tigers would do well to follow the same script.
The defense held East Hall to just 155 total yards of offense and Dominy threw for 251 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on 18 for 26 passing, and added one touchdown and 19 yards rushing.
Senior running back Zack Martin added two touchdowns and 30 yards rushing, and receiver Will Anglin hauled in three receptions for 80 yards to lead an offense that rolled up a total of 404 yards.
East Hall coach Bryan Gray was impressed with the Tigers’ signal caller.
“We’ve got some pretty good (defensive backs), and we couldn’t do anything,” he said. “That’s the best quarterback play I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”
After starting 5 of 11, Dominy completed 13 of his final 15 passes, including the three touchdowns, before leaving the game early in the fourth quarter.
Dominy said the unit just needed time to get over the nervousness, and then they couldn’t be stopped.
“We started a little nervous, but then we really put it on them,” he said.
The defense certainly helped, setting the offense up inside the East Hall 20-yard line on three of the first four scores.
Dawson County last recorded a shutout in 2009 in a 6-0 win against Rabun County.
And it was the Tigers defense that made the first big play of the game Friday, forcing a fumble from East Hall one play after Dominy had been picked off deep in East Hall territory.
The Tigers recovered on the East Hall 11-yard line, and Martin finished a three-play drive with a 7-yard touchdown run with 4:20 left in the opening quarter.
The East Hall defense stood its ground for awhile after the score, but Dominy and the Tigers’ offense found a groove late in the second quarter, scoring three times in just over six minutes.
Behind two long passes to Anglin, Dominy brought the Tigers to the 6-yard line, where Martin broke through for a second score and a 14-0 lead with 6:31 remaining in the half.
The Dawson County defense delivered another short field to the offense less than three minutes later when senior linebacker JP King hauled in an interception off of East Hall quarterback Zach Groover and returned it all the way to the East Hall 5-yard line before Groover pushed him out of bounds.
After a penalty on the Vikings, Dominy hit tight end Colton Chester for a 3-yard touchdown pass and a 21-0 lead.
The Tigers defense stopped East Hall on a fourth-down-and-short attempt on the next series and the offense took over just 19 yards from the goal line. Dominy needed just one play, making his first run of the game count with a 19-yard scamper for a score and a 28-0 lead two minutes before halftime.
Dawson finished the half 9 for 16 for 128 yards through the air and one touchdown each rushing and passing, while Martin added 28 yards rushing and two scores.
The Tigers defense held East Hall to just 98 yards of offense in the half.
Dawson County opened the second half with a long drive, capped off by a Dominy touchdown pass to Bruce Clark.
Dominy’s final score came later in the quarter, finishing another drive with a strike to Chris Sayler from 4 yards out for a 42-0 lead that held up until the end.
East Hall junior running back Quay Jarrells led East Hall on offense with 50 yards rushing on six carries. The Vikings used two quarterbacks, Zach Groover and Devin Watson, who combined for 21 yards passing and one interception on 3 for 8 passing.
Gray said he would need to watch the tape before deciding whether he would continue operating a two-quarterback system or stick with one.
He added that the team will need to work on all three phases of the game, but the loss came with at least one bit of good news: The Vikings won’t have to see Dominy anymore.
“The good news — he’s graduating,” Gray said.
Both teams return to action next week. East Hall plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday at nonregion opponent Chattooga; Dawson County travels to Dahlonega for a 7:30 p.m. game Friday against nonregion opponent, rival Lumpkin County.