It only seemed right that the Douglas County defense was on the field when the game was on the line.
As Dalton tried for a potential game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter of Friday’s Class AAAAAA playoff game, the Tigers defense stood tall.
A pass deflection by Tigers linebacker Josh Slay on a fourth-down play inside Douglas County’s territory, stopped the drive and preserved the win.
A couple first quarter touchdowns were all the fifth-ranked Tigers needed in a 13-6 win at Jimmy Johnson Stadium to send them to the second-round of the playoffs.
“I just read the quarterback’s eyes because I knew he was looking to throw in that direction,” Slay said of the pass deflection. “I played the ball like we do in all those drills in practice. It’s no question that defense wins games. There was no other way I would want it for the defense to be on the field at the end.”
With the win, Douglas County improved to 10-1 and advances to next week’s second round at Alpharetta, which defeated Gainesville. Dalton, a 2016 semifinalist, season season ends with a 7-4 record and a first-round exit from the state playoffs for the first time since 2012, when the Catamounts fell to Alexander 13-10.
Other than a controversial touchdown in the fourth quarter from Dalton, the Tigers dominated on defense the majority of the game. Catamounts wide receiver Yendry Cruz caught a pass across the middle, then on a tackle, broke free after it appeared he landed on a defender for a score.
Tigers coach Johnny White aired his complaint with a game official, but it was ruled a score.
“That one touchdown was questionable,” White said. “I heard a whistle. Sometimes you have to go through some adversity to test yourself. I’m proud of our defense and the way we played the game.”
This was the Tigers first playoff when since 2005 when they upset No. 4 Warner Robins at home to advance to the second round. Douglas County hasn’t played in a quarterfinals game since the 1988 season when it defeated Southwest DeKalb (24-20) before losing to Brookwood (14-0) in the semifinals.
“We didn’t came through on defense with some high energy,” Tigers junior defensive back Shemar Andrews said. “The effort was great. It was a tough game but we got the win and that’s all that matters.”
Douglas County had a textbook drive on the opening possession as quarterback Marquise Collins scored on an 8-yard run to cap a 15-play, 71-yard drive that eight up nearly seven minutes on the clock.
The extra-point failed as the Tigers took a 6-0 lead with 5:29 remaining.
Braelen Oliver took a fake punt 43 yards for another score with 1:23 remaining as the Tigers lead 13-0.
It would be all the scoring the team would get despite 326 yards of offense, 283 on the ground. Running back Uriah West had 166 yards rushing on 23 carries.
Oliver finished with 70 yards rushing on five carries.
“We got some work to do to get ready for our next game,” Collins said. “Overall, it was sort of sloppy on offense. I know we will get better.”