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Football: Forsyth Central falls to Dawson County in season opener
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By MacKenzie Bates

For the Forsyth County News

Forsyth Central football coach Frank Hepler will be the first to tell you taking a loss is a hard pill to swallow.

But if there is any good in a loss, he found plenty of it in Friday’s 9-0 defeat against Dawson County.

For starters, the Bulldogs (0-1) kept the Tigers (1-0) out of the end zone. Dawson’s Peyton Allen booted field goals of 30, 36 and 22 yards for the only scores of the game.

 “That’s what you want to do on defense,” Hepler said.

Central held Dawson to 125 offensive yards in the first half.

“It’s a good sign that shows our kids never quit,” Hepler said.  “They never let that frustrate them, they kept playing hard. Dawson is a good team. I believe they’re ranked in their class. Any division where you’re ranked in the state of Georgia, you’re a good football team.”

But when Dawson County stepped out on to the field in the third quarter of Friday’s game against Central, they had one thing in mind.

Run the football.

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Forsyth Central quarterback Brad Thiltgen attempts a pass during the Bulldogs' game against Dawson County on Aug. 28. - photo by Brian Paglia
The Tigers ran the ball 58 times for 325 yards, including 235 in the second half on 36 attempts.  Quarterback Coey Watson had 176 yards while SeVaughn Clark added 100 yards on the ground on 21 touches.

“We had a lot of opportunities on offense to move the ball and keep our defense rested,” Dawson County Coach Sid Maxwell said.  “I think our attack offense wore Central down a little bit, but we didn’t cash in.”

Hepler credited his staff and his kids for the “bend but don’t break” mentality on defense.

“Last year, they’d end up scoring three or four times,” Hepler said. “We just weren’t physically able.  This year, it shows what our guys have done in the weight room.  Our kids are in much better shape than this time last year and that was a huge indication of that.”

Central struggled in the first 24 minutes with just 79 yards of total offense.  They were inside Dawson County territory only twice on their opening and final possessions. Both ended on interceptions.  Quarterback Brad Thiltgen was 16-of-38 for 112 yards.  He added 14 yards on the ground on four attempts.  Michael Miller and Devron Orsan added a combined 36 yards on the ground on nine attempts.

“I handcuffed our offense a little bit,” Hepler said.  “I should’ve let them open it up early but I waited until the second half. … I’ll take the blame there.  I’ve always been a wide-open guy.  I hate it because I hurt the kids with that tonight.”

Hepler’s message to his team after the game was simple.  He was proud of their effort, and he’s eager to see how they respond when they go on the road next week against River Ridge.

“We’re getting better,” Hepler said. “We’re still a young team and it takes time to try and change the culture.  The kids are buying in and really working hard.”