Dawson takes out Clear Falls 35-31 to advance in playoffs

DAWSON — They say it is difficult to beat a team twice in one season.

Clear Falls beat Dawson 31-7 in the 2021 season opener and were favored to do it again after closing out the regular season with a 9-1 record and a second-place finish in District 24-6A.

While Dawson began the season with a lot of inexperienced players, the hard-work and success they experienced during the year built their level of confidence for the playoffs.

One of the most obvious improvements in this Class 6A Region III Div. II bi-district game compared to the first meeting between the two teams was the performance of junior quarterback Colin Johnson.

In the first game against Clear Falls, Johnson was 8-of-17 passing for a mere 30 yards.

The second time around, Johnson was 20-of-28 passing for 314 yards and three touchdowns.

Running back Bryce Burgess had 15 carries for 59 yards, but the sophomore speedster had 24 totes for 104 yards and one TD in the second contest.

The receiving corps in the second game burned the Clear Falls secondary led by senior wide receiver Ryan Guillo who had 10 catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns while Ashton Stroman had seven grabs for 79 yards and Burgess had one reception for 49 yards and a score.

"It is difficult to express how proud I am of the players and coaches," said Dawson head coach Mike Allison. "That game is one of the top games I have ever been a part of. The way the kids prepared for it and the way they believed in each other was special.

'We had to fight back from ten (points) down, early, and continue to fight with the up and down of the second half. This was a great example of how hard work, throughout the season, pays off."

Clear Falls scored on their opening possession as David Smith found paydirt on a 3-yard run to take an early 7-0 lead with 10:01 remaining in the first quarter.

The Knights added a 37-yard field goal with 4:55 left in the first period to increase the lead to 10-0.

But the Eagles came back before the end of the opening quarter with a 27-yard scoring run by Burgess with 2:25 left in the first to make the score 10-7.

Dawson scored on a 32-yard pass from Johnson to Guillo with 4:59 left in the second quarter for a 14-10 lead following the PAT from Carter Brown that stood at halftime.

Clear Falls scored first in the second half when Payton Green scored on a 5-yard run to make the score 17-14 with 6:37 left in the third quarter.

It took exactly 14 seconds for the Eagles to retake the lead with a sensational 70-yard pass from Johnson to Guillo with 6:23 left to make the score 21-17.

The Knights answered with 4:39 left in the third period with a 44-yard scoring jaunt by David Smith for a 24-21 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

Early in the fourth, Johnson scored on a 2-yard QB keeper with 10:17 remaining in the game to make the score 28-24 following the PAT by Brown.

On their next possession, the Knights found the pay station on a 2-yard run by Smith to once again take the lead 31-28.

Trailing the Knights by three points late in the game, and facing a third-and-10, the Eagles hit the game’s last big play — a 49-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Burgess with the game winner with 5:08 left in the fourth making the score 35-31 which stood as the final score.

"This win is not possible without the play of the offensive line," Allison said. "They did an outstanding job all night long.

"Defensively, we got great play from Jackson Cody, Shamar Jones, Bryson Burgess, and Jaiden Walker all played well. Chris Herpin got a sack on their last offensive play that was huge.

"All of those guys had some stats from the game, but the energy from the sideline was amazing. Everyone played a valuable role in the win. This is truly a FAMILY, and I am blessed to be a part of it."

Dawson outgained Clear Falls 423-to-373 total yards while registering 23 first downs to 20 for the Knights.

The Eagles (8-3) advance to the 6A Region III Div. II area-round to face Summer Creek (8-3) at Turner Stadium on Friday, November 19 at 7:00 p.m.