Posted: Thursday, September 6th 2012 at 2:31pm
Milestones within reach for surging Tigers
By Jeff Hart Staff
Dawson County running back Zack Martin powers his way toward a touchdown in the Tigers season-opening win over East Hall in Dawsonville.
DAWSONVILLE -- Jeff Lee knew all along this could be a special season for his Dawson County squad. The only question would be, in the words of the late Johnny Carson, “how special [would it be]?”
So far, pretty special.
The Tigers have dispatched their first two opponents -- East Hall and Lumpkin County -- by a combined 77-0, the largest margin of victory in consecutive wins in school history. A win over Class AAAAAA North Forsyth on Friday night at Tiger Stadium and Dawson County will reach a milestone only one other team in school history has ever achieved – a 3-0 start (in 2001).
“That would be very, very special,” Lee said. “It’s not something that was necessarily a goal for us but now that we are here we sure would love to reach that. But, our focus has been that this is just the next game and that’s really how we are looking at it.”
Lee admitted that he has high expectations for his 2012 group. The seniors have increased their win total each season, going from one win in 2009 as freshmen to five wins last season as juniors and narrowly missing out on the playoffs. Lee said they have discussed the possibilities, and opportunities, that are ahead of them.
“Since this group (of seniors) got together in middle school we felt it could be an outstanding team as they got older and more experienced. I said at the beginning of the year this could be the best team in my 10 years here and I still feel that way,” he said. “They have come out focused and hungry to show people that they are a good football team. Can they achieve all of these ‘firsts’ or match other milestones? We’ll have to see.”
All that aside, the Tigers have not posted a winning record since 2004, Lee’s second season. So, what is it that gives Lee the sense that 2012 could be the year they have all been waiting for?
“There is a level of confidence in this group as a whole, not just the seniors, that we saw back in the spring that made us feel this could be a special kind of year,” he said. “The kids have confidence in themselves and the coaches and what we are trying to teach them. It’s something as a coach you always look for and hope that you see. We definitely see it in them this year.
“It’s easy to look down the road and see North Hall and Buford and White County and not pay attention to the next opponent. This group is focused and they know what they can accomplish, as long as they take things one game at a time. It’s cliché but it’s true.”
Friday’s matchup with the Raiders (1-0) will not be totally unfamiliar territory for Lee and the Tigers -- despite the two schools, which are just 12 miles apart, not meeting since the 1999 season. North Forsyth is now coached by Blair Armstrong, who went against Lee and the Tigers for four years as coach of Banks County in the old Region 8-AA.
Lee said familiarity with Armstrong may not mean that much, however.
“They have a lot of kids and are big up front with a lot of speed in the backfield,” Lee said. “If we get to 3-0 we will definitely earn it. But, we are also looking at this as a challenge to see how we match up against bigger, faster opponents, which should help us when we get to the North Halls and Bufords in our region.
Dawson County has won its first two games with stifling defense and an efficient offense. The defense held East Hall to just one first down in the first half, while building an early lead, and did not let Lumpkin County get past midfield the entire game.
Meanwhile, the offense is led by an outstanding quarterback in Tyler Dominy, who has averaged over 250 yards a game passing. Zack Martin and a host of other running backs have also given the offense balance on the ground.
“Tyler has had a good start and the defense has just been outstanding,” Lee said. “You can’t expect to shut out every opponent and that’s not our goal. But, they have taken pride in the fact that no one has scored on them yet. (The defense) will have a tall order ahead of them this week.”
The only blemish on the season to this point has been the loss of senior defensive starters Cody Smith and Cale Tallant, who both went down with knee injuries in the first series against East Hall.
“I hate it for them because they’ve worked hard to get to this point and they were a big part of the defense,” Lee said. “If we can get into the playoffs we may be able to get them back but it’s hard to say right now.”
Lee said one of the best things to happen with the Tigers’ quick start has been how it has affected the community. And he wants his team to understand what that means.
“I think this team has rallied the community because (the fans) understand and know this could be a special year. We’ve talked to (the players) about making sure they have fun with it, though, and not put the pressure of trying to please others over trying to please themselves, and also not look too far ahead,” Lee said. “If they can do that and just play the way we think they are capable, they could have one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of seasons that you remember forever. That’s what we want to help them accomplish.”
-- NOTES: North Forsyth is coming off a 10-7 win over rival Forsyth Central and has already matched last year’s win total. ... The Raiders have not started a season 2-0 since 2009, when they finished 7-4 and went to the Class AAAAA playoffs. ... North Forsyth has won five straight in the series. ... The last time Dawson County shut out three straight opponents was in 2004, when they blanked Rabun County, Union County, and Lumpkin County. ... The Tigers have allowed just under 150 yards a game on defense so far in 2012.
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