Saturday April 1st, 2023 12:00AM

Football: Former Lumpkin, Dawson coaches look back on 2000 "Showdown for First"

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor
  Contact Editor

George Hoblitzell said, "fumblerooski."

You could hear the former Lumpkin County coach's voice elevate just a bit when he started talking about the "trick play" Dawson County ran that essentially led to a loss for Lumpkin County in 2000. 

"They ran a fumblerooski, a trick play, that tricked us pretty good. It ended up being the difference in the ball game," Hoblitzell said about his first Lumpkin-Dawson game. Hoblitzell coached at Lumpkin County from 2000-2005. 

Although the trickery didn't put points on the board because of an inadvertent whistle, offensive guard Dan Fowler was credited for 35 yards on the carry, setting up the Tigers' first score of the second half. The Tigers scored two plays later when quarterback Benjy Edwards hit a diving Levi Walls for a 10-yard pass with 8:50 to go in the third. The touchdown was the start to Dawson County's 21-13 second-half performance and the eventual 42-27 win. 

It was billed as the "Showdown for First," with the two arch-rivals vying for their first region title. The unfortunate part to this whole story, both teams lost the final two games of the season, representing Region 8-2A as the third and fourth seed in the 2000 playoffs.

Nevertheless, former Dawson County coach Jeff Fleming (1995-2002) said the play gave them the momentum back at that time in the contest.

"It was a back-and-forth game," Fleming said. "It gave us a lot of momentum at the time. But we did not want to let them come in, in that particular scenario, and ruin the season for us. It was just the type of game that we felt we had to be at our best, and I think that particular night, we were." 

Back and forth is correct. The Tigers struck first in the much-anticipated Region 8-2A fight. But Lumpkin County answered blow for blow, including the first half's most explosive play, a David Richardson 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The Tigers led 21-13 at the half. 

The second half started just as the Indians had hoped. Star running back Gabriel Jackson, who ended the night well over 100 yards rushing, sprinted 64 yards on the second play of the opening drive for paydirt. David Burton converted the 2-point play on a QB sweep to tie the game, 21-21, with 9:43 left in the third. 

Then the fumblerooski happened, capped by the TD pass to Walls and, later on, a 4th-and-10 Edwards TD pass to a diving Cliff Strickland to push the Tigers ahead by two scores, 35-21, with 18 seconds to go in the third. Still, the Indians had Jackson in the stable, and he answered the call again on a 55-yard rush to the house to cut the lead to 35-27, but a fumble on the Indians' next possession stalled the Indians' comeback effort as the Tigers cashed it in for points. 

"It was a great series," Fleming said. "My very first game at Dawson County was a trip to Dahlonega to play Lumpkin County in what everyone told me was a great rivalry. When we went there, I found out it was more of a rivalry than people had said. We had some great games with them in Dahlonega and Dawsonville." 

"It was a tremendous rivalry back then," Hoblitzell said. "I didn't realize how big it was until I got there. There was a lot of dislike between the two schools, at least back then." 

Since 2000, the Indians have only beaten the Tigers four times, with the most recent coming in 2014. Dawson County leads the overall series 23-19-2. 

Ty Maxwell, one of Hoblitzell's former players at Lumpkin County, was the last Indian head coach to lead them to a victory over the Tigers. In 2014, Lumpkin County steamrolled the Tigers 42-19. It's also the last time the Indians made the state playoffs. 

Maxwell said as a player and coach at Lumpkin County, the Dawson-Lumpkin game was always circled on the schedule. Maxwell coached the Indians for two seasons -- 2014-15.

"It was a violent rivalry for bragging rights to be discussed at the Gold Rush and Moonshine Festival," Maxwell said. "Lots of friends on the opposing teams grew up playing together and against each other. This year is a tremendous matchup of two great teams and coaching staff. I have the utmost respect for coach [Sid] Maxwell and coach [Heath] Webb in the coaching profession. Should be a dang good one." 

So, spin the clock forward 22 years and one day from the last showdown for first, and the two teams will meet again in what will be the biggest, most-hyped game in the 50-plus years of the rivalry. If the Tigers win on Friday, they'll be crowned Region 7-3A champions. If the Indians win, they'll have to beat West Hall next week to officially seal the deal. 

Hoblitzell said he hasn't kept up with his former team in a long time. However, he knows what's on the line for both. 

"I do know both are doing well," Hoblitzell said. "I read the other day that this game is for the region title, and that's great." 

On the other hand, Fleming has kept up with both teams and put his coaching visor on for just a moment to provide his assessment. He believes Dawson County has the edge defensively, and Lumpkin gets the nod on offense. 

"It should be a great battle, and I'm sure it'll be a huge crowd," Fleming said. 

  • Associated Categories: Sports, High School Sports, Friday Game Night
  • Associated Tags: High school football, Lumpkin County football, Dawson County football
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