NORCROSS — Make no mistake, Dawson County football has had the game circled for some time.
The Tigers are just not going to let the emotion of the moment carry them away -- not even when facing Greater Atlanta Christian in a top 10 showdown for sole possession of first place in Region 7-3A.
"We’re pretty excited but more ready than anything," said Logan Barnes, Dawson County's senior safety. "They’re a good team, but we’re a good team as well. We’re 6-0, we’re on a roll, and we’re ready."
Certainly 10th-ranked Dawson County has stamped its authority on the early part of the campaign, putting up 273 points (tops in Class 3A) while allowing just 66 (eighth in Class 3A) -- that's an average winning margin of 45.5-11 -- while running out to the best start in program history.
The task in front of the Tigers far outweighs anything faced to this point, however.
The fifth-ranked Spartans may not have the eye-catching explosiveness of seasons past when running back Kyler McMichael (now at Clemson) and quarterback Davis Mills (now at Stanford) lit up the scoreboard. In fact, the Spartans are only averaging 27.6 points per game while allowing 15, but that comes against a schedule full of ranked teams (three in non-region) and powerhouses (Texas' Prestonwood Christian is 5-0). And GAC still has plenty of talent at its disposal -- especially in the trenches where linemen like Christopher Hinton (Michigan commit) and Myles Hinton (his younger brother with a long offer sheet of his own) dominate with regularity.
The Spartans showed they are in no mood to let their lead slip in Region 7-3A last week, fighting off a then 5-0 North Hall 21-0. And GAC knows it can take a huge leap toward a third straight 7-3A title and fifth in a row overall with a win over Dawson County on Friday.
The Tigers have region hopes of their own, however, and after running over foes all season, Dawson wants to show that there has been a power shift in 7-3A.
"We’ve all bonded together greatly, different from past years, and it’s been like that lightning in the bottle that (Dawson County) coach (Sid) Maxwell talks about," said Ryan Glass, Dawson County senior receiver. "It’s just all of us working as one. I think this year we have talent at every single position and we can go out and compete with any team."
The Tigers enter the contest rushing for 385.5 yards per game behind a strong offensive line and quarterback/running back duo of Vaughn Clark and Ahmad Kamara, and the Dawson offensive line knows it is set for a strength-on-strength match-up against GAC's defensive front. If they can make headway in that battle, Dawson may just be able to notch its first win in the series since 2000 after suffering seven straight defeats -- and take its own giant step toward a region crown.
"It’s going to take teamwork, chemistry, having each other’s backs, making no mistakes -- or less mistakes than they have," Clark said. "Hopefully we come out with it."
GAME of the WEEK:
DAWSON COUNTY at GREATER ATLANTA CHRISTIAN
- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
- WHERE: Spartan Sports Complex, Norcross
- RADIO: northgeorgiasportslink.com
- DAWSON (6-0, 2-0 Region 7-3A): Defeated East Hall 64-0 last week. The Tigers are ranked No. 10 in Class 3A
- GAC (4-2, 2-0 Region 7-3A) -- Defeated North Hall Hall 21-0 last week. The Spartans are ranked No. 5 in Class 3A
- NOTABLE: Dawson County is 1-7 against GAC all-time, with the lone win coming in the two teams' first meeting in 2000. ... The Spartans defeated the Tigers 49-10 last season in the final regular season contest for both teams. GAC went on to the Class 3A semifinals. Dawson County went on to the second round of the Class 3A bracket. ... The two teams are currently not on par statistically. the Tigers enter the showdown leading all of Class 3A in scoring with 273 points (45.5 per game). Dawson County's defense is also eighth in scoring with 66 points allowed (11 per game). The Spartans, meanwhile, have scored 166 points (27.6 ppg) and have yielded 90 (15 per game). ... Friday's showdown will represent the first time the Tigers face another top 10 foe. The Spartans, meanwhile, have already faced opponents ranked in at least one poll when they played them. Dawson County's prior six foes currently sport a combined record of 13-22. GAC's six prior foes are a combined 18-16. ... Expect a stout battle in the trenches in this one. The Tigers enter rushing for 385.5 yards per game, led by Sr. RB Ahmad Kamara (669 yards, 9 TDs) and Sr. QB Vaughn Clark (479 yards, 10 TDs). Five other Dawson backs have at least 100 yards along with one touchdown. ... Clark has also completed 40 of 71 passes (56 percent) for 481 yards, 5 TDs and 1 INT. ... The Spartans are balanced on offense, averaging 218 yards passing and 173.7 yards rushing per game. Montae Bailey (Jr. RB) leads GAC with 386 yards rushing and 3 TDs, while dual threat QB Josh Rose (Sr.) has 933 yards passing (54 of 104, 52 percent, 9 TDs, 2 INTs) and 383 yards rushing with 5 TDs. ... GAC's strength is on the line of scrimmage with brothers Christopher Hinton (Sr., Michigan commit) and Myles Hinton (Jr., several FBS offers) anchoring the trenches. ... Last week we chronicled Tim Hardy's work in raising GAC to a state power: Hardy's Spartans have four straight region titles, 7-3A in 2016-17 and Region 6-2A in 2014-15 -- they had four region titles combined prior. ... GAC has won double digit games for the last six seasons (going 71-13 over that time), by far the best period in program history. ... Dawson County coach Sid Maxwell has also had a huge impact since taking over the Tigers. In three-plus seasons, Maxwell's Dawson teams have their first region title and deepest-ever postseason run (Class 3A quarterfinals), both in 2015. With 30 wins, Maxwell is already the team's third all-time winningest coach behind Jeff Fleming (33 wins in 8 seasons) and Jeff Lee (48 wins in 12 seasons). However, Maxwell's Tigers have yet to beat a private school. They have another opportunity Friday.