DAWSONVILLE — There’s only one way to describe the mood of the Dawson County High football team during this summer’s workouts: purposeful.
The Tigers haven’t won more than three games since 2005 and haven’t been to the playoffs since 2004. They are hoping to break that streak this year.
“The kids out here this summer have bought into what we’re trying to do,” Dawson County coach Jeff Lee said. “We want to be a playoff team again, and that’s what we’re shooting for.”
With a clear goal in mind, the Tigers have used the summer as a starting point for building toward it.
They spent the month of June building a foundation for July, and July will be spent doing the same for August, and so on; all in an effort to be prepared mentally and physically when the season opens at Lumpkin County on Aug. 28.
“We concentrated in June on our strength and speed, using bungees and parachutes and all that other stuff,” said Lee, who has had an average of 65 athletes show up for each workout. “This month is more geared toward football and the agility and conditioning needed for gametime in preparation for the first day of practice.”
Dawson County spent a portion of the first full week of July at a passing camp at Brewton Parker College and will spend next week doing the same at Presbyterian College.
In the meantime, the Tigers are informally practicing in a 7-on-7 format against teams like North Hall.
“I used to think (passing camps and leagues) mostly helped the offense,” Lee said. “But now I am convinced it is more beneficial for the defense, especially our secondary.
“The 7-on-7s allow us to face different schemes and sets that we wouldn’t be able to give our defense in our own practices.”
It’s also key as far as personnel is concerned, and for Dawson County that means finding the right players to fill the second and third teams.
“We have our No. 1s,” Lee said. “We have a great group of juniors coming back that played a lot last year. Our senior class is small, and then we have a big group of freshmen and sophomores.
“Our guys have really stepped up this summer.”
In particular, Lee is excited about returning guards Zach Johnson and Matt Satterfield and quarterback Ethan Brown, all juniors.
Johnson entered last season as the No. 2 offensive lineman in the southeast, according to the National Underclassman Combine Football Network, but injuries kept him out of the better part of the season.
“Zach is back and fully healed and it’s exciting,” Lee said.
Both Johnson and Satterfield are being recruited by SEC and ACC schools.
“These guys are physical and smart students of the game,” Lee said. “It’s nice to have them on our side.”
As for Brown, he is ranked first academically in his class.
“It’s nice to have a guy running your offense who has character and is able to go through all the thought processes necessary,” Lee said. “These guys make us feel really good about this year.”
In addition, having former Dawson County player and Georgia Tech B-Back Lance Walls helping out during summer workouts serves as extra motivation for the Tigers.
“We’re running some of the same things that Georgia Tech ran,” Lee said. “So it’s nice having someone out there helping who knows firsthand what we need to do and who we need to have doing it.”