DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Dawson County coach Sid Maxwell has his ears plugged to the outside region title talk.
It's like any other game week.
"I get them focused on what they've got to do, and the outcome will happen," Maxwell said. "They need to be loose, play relaxed and focused, and not be fearful of what a game may mean down the road. We just need to have clarity and get ourselves in a position to have success."
Well, the Tigers enter the toughest three weeks of football since the non-region schedule. They'll travel to Wesleyan on Friday, followed by a home battle with Gilmer, and end the regular season at Lumpkin County.
If they run the table, they'll capture their first region title since 2015, but it's not going to be easy.
Right now, Dawson County is at the top of Region 7-3A standings, one game ahead of Gilmer, Lumpkin County and Wesleyan.
"We can't worry about down the road," Maxwell said. "We've got to focus on this week, keep executing and playing hard as we prepare to play a very good Wesleyan team."
Wesleyan was placed in the Northeast Georgia region when the Georgia High School Association reclassified and added the 3.0 multiplier to Class A Private and Public. The multiplier pushed Wesleyan from Class A to Class 3A and into Region 7-3A.
It'll be the Tigers' first time playing the Wolves since both schools were in Class 2A and in the same region in 2007. Wesleyan leads the all-time series 7-2.
Maxwell said he's been able to watch film but didn't find a lot of it helpful.
"Their coaching staff does a great job," Maxwell said. "Obviously, we've looked through the film to see sizes and see people, but it hasn't helped much. If they were an opponent that we have played regularly, we would know what to expect a little more. So, we're really going into the dark, a little bit, about them. Hopefully, we can work through the four quarters and try to get our young men in the right positions."
Wesleyan is a pass-heavy team, with 6-foot-4, 185-pound Division 1 prospect Jamie Tremble (34-563, 7 TDs) providing a solid target for quarterback Ben Brown. Brown has passed for more than 1,000 yards and six touchdowns. Seniors Reed Purcell (22-267, 2 TDs) and Thomas Cook (21-251, 1 TD) and junior Shepard Jones (16-189, 3 TDs) will get some targets as well.
"We're going to have to prevent the big play with their wide receivers," Maxwell said. "Hopefully, we'll get a few sacks and get pressure on them. We have to play physical."
When the Wolves run it, expect Andrew Willis to get the call. He's rushed for 155 of the Wolves' 387 yards this season.
The Tigers have played physical on defense this season, recording more than 50 tackles for a loss, 20-plus sacks, 9 interceptions and 6 fumble recoveries. They have five players with two or more sacks and seven with three or more tackles for a loss.
Junior linebacker Will Kurtz leads the Tigers with 6 sacks (8 TFLs), and senior defensive tackle Cade Adams has 11 TFLs and 5 sacks. Matt Bennett, Christian Webb and Kenny Nelson all have two INTs.
Offensively, the Tigers have been a work in progress but since starting region play, have averaged 38 points per game.
They'll continue to lean on the run game. The Tigers have three running backs with over 150 yards rushing this season. Senior Kade Moledor leads the attack with 75 carries for 367 yards and three scores. They'll also rotate Bennett (21-167, 3 TDs) and Elijah Smith (45-211, 3 TDs).
"Offensively, we have a lot of young guys and sometimes struggle for consistency," Maxwell said. "We're going to have to attack Wesleyan downhill and run the football, and when we have the opportunity, throw it over the top. Our goal is to excel at what we do well, and that's run the football."