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Football: Denmark suffers first-ever loss to Dawson County
Dawson County defenders knock the ball out of the hands of Denmark's Andrew Harvey on Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.

Denmark’s first loss in program history could best be encapsulated by one play.

On third down with 4:18 left in the first quarter against Dawson County, Tigers quarterback SeVaughn Clark threw the ball towards the left corner of the end zone. In almost any other situation, it would have been an incomplete pass, but the ball bounced off the head of a Denmark defender and back in bounds, and then it fell into the hands of Tigers receiver Ryan Glass. The 35-yard touchdown reception put the Danes behind 14-7.

“I was saying, ‘That’s luck, man,” Denmark linebacker Nick Carozza said. “That’s good concentration by that wide receiver.”

Whether it was mistakes, missed opportunities, a struggling running game or just bad luck, it was just that kind of night for the Danes, who fell to the Tigers 38-21 in its homecoming matchup on Friday night.

“They’re big and strong and (are) a really good football team,” Denmark head coach Terry Crowder said. “We had some chances in the first half that we missed, and I think that if we get them in the first half, it may have been different, maybe.”

At first, it looked like the stout defense that helped Denmark beat Forsyth Central last week was back in full force, after Dawson County began its first drive by driving 53 yards to the Danes’ 1. The same goal line defense that got two crucial stops against Central last week stood its ground again, leaving the Tigers’ empty-handed to start their night.

But then the mistakes began. Ben Whitlock threw an interception on the Danes’ second pass of the game, and Dawson immediately capitalized, with Clark finding Dakota Sonnichsen for a 7-0 lead with 6:51 left in the first quarter.

It didn’t take too long for Denmark to respond. On the very next play from scrimmage, Whitlock threw a deep ball in the direction of Adonnis Tolbert, who got in front of his defender and ran down the sideline for a 75-yard score to tie the game at 7-7.

After the helmet play, the Danes trailed 14-7. A bulk of false start penalties and some missed opportunities on some wide open passes, including a flea-flicker, were not helping them. With 2:22 left in the first quarter, Whitlock threw his second interception of the night. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it set Denmark’s defense up for a play that tied the game: a 2-yard interception return from Arthur Marsden as Clark attempted to throw the ball away while running from the Danes’ pass rush.

With the game tied at 14-14 at the end of a long first quarter, the Tigers began to pull away in the second, with touchdowns from Clark and Dawson running back Ahmed Kamara, as well as a 28-yard field goal extending the lead to 31-14 at halftime.

The Danes had three straight three-and-outs at one point in the second quarter, and due in part to Dawson’s defensive line, Denmark did not put together a run of 10 yards or more in the first half. Running back Devin DuCille finished with just 28 yards on 15 carries.

“They were just too big and strong for us,” Crowder said. “We knew that was going to be hard.”

Whitlock began the second half by leading the Danes to midfield, but his third interception of the game ended the once-promising drive. Dawson continued to pile on, leading 38-14 heading into the fourth.

Denmark’s special teams came up with a big play with four minutes to play, with Carozza blocking a punt and returning it to the Tigers’ 8. Whitlock connected with Teddy Davenport a play later to bring the Danes to within three scores before Dawson used its effective run game to milk the clock.

“It’s a good feeling, just putting our team (in position) to score that touchdown,” Carozza said. “It was awesome.”

With the first loss out of the way for the Danes, they’re now looking to clean things up and hope that there aren’t many of them to come. Next week, Denmark will start a region slate that figures to be one of the toughest in Class 4A, with three teams ranked in the Georgia Sports Writers Association poll.

“We’ve just got to go back and see what we did wrong and try to get those things fixed,” Crowder said. “Now they all count, so we have to get ready for those games.”