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By LARRY VAUGHT
BOWLING GREEN Ã¢â‚¬â€ When Boyle County needed him most, Lamar Dawson was there.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Lamar just took charge in the second half on the defensive side and even on the offensive side. We went behind him all second half and he opened up some nice holes for us. Chris Cook ran the ball extremely well, but No. 5 (Dawson) is a winner. We are going to miss him tremendously,Ã¢â‚¬Â said coach Larry French.
But because the Rebels had him here Friday, they now have a seventh state championship and second straight after beating Allen County-Scottsville 21-14.
The Rebels were reeling at halftime after the Patriots scored on the first halfÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s final play to take a 7-0 lead.
So what does Dawson, a senior linebacker-tight end-fullback who is being recruited by the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s elite programs, do?
He makes a 20-yard pass reception on a third-and-nine play to key a 67-yard scoring drive that tied the game to open the third quarter. After BoyleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s defense held on three plays, the Rebels wisely kept riding the running of Chris Cook before Dawson scooted around right end for a 6-yard go-ahead score.
Want more? On the PatriotsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ next possession, Dawson combined with linebacker Chris Cook to force a fumble at the Allen County 35 that set the stage for another touchdown drive.
Cook was named the gameÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s most valuable player Ã¢â‚¬â€ and who could argue after he ran for 175 yards, intercepted a pass and forced a fumble Ã¢â‚¬â€ but donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t doubt for a minute whether Dawson was the catalyst for BoyleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s comeback.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We talk about that in great games, great players make great plays. I am telling you that man right there makes great plays in great games and he has done that for three years now,Ã¢â‚¬Â French said.
Somehow Dawson has remained humble, a player who values winning more than individual recognition. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s already been named the Gatorade Kentucky Player of the Year, invited to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and selected as Class AAAA Player of the Year.
Yet his focus was on winning a 30th straight game Ã¢â‚¬â€ and second straight title Ã¢â‚¬â€ and nothing else.
He was surrounded by TV cameras and print reporters when the game ended. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was no big deal. We won,Ã¢â‚¬Â Dawson smiled and said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“If we had lost, it would have been different. I might not have liked it then. But I knew I just had to come out and be ready to play. I was hyped just to be here on the big stage that we worked so hard for. It was a great feeling just to be out there and I wanted to play like it meant a lot to me because it did.Ã¢â‚¬Â
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why Dawson tried to downplay his individual accomplishments during the game. But if you saw the game, it was obvious Allen County had no answers for DawsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dominating blocking or the way he could stop offensive plays from developing.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“At halftime the coaches said the seniors had to come out and take over and win this football game,Ã¢â‚¬Â Dawson said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“That pass I caught Ã¢â‚¬â€ and I missed one the first I half I should have caught Ã¢â‚¬â€ got a first down and got momentum. On the fumble, we both forced it. I am here to make big plays like that. My team counts on me for that.Ã¢â‚¬Â
HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s right. Just ask junior running back-cornerback Devon Cox.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Lamar is a monster. He gets out there and he works and works and works. He is the man to us. Everybody falls behind Lamar,Ã¢â‚¬Â Cox said.
Or ask defensive coordinator Jeff Hester.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Lamar is a great football player. He has all the ability in the world. He can do whatever he wants,Ã¢â‚¬Â Hester said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have enjoyed coaching him for four years. It has been a great ride.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s athletic, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s smart, he makes good decisions and he helps to get everybody lined up. My son, Zach, plays beside him and he talks about how Lamar talks and gets things right. He does a great job orchestrating our defense.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Maybe thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why there was no panic DawsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s play even when the Rebels were outplayed the first half.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The first half we really didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t show up and at the end of half they made a play and got up 7-0, but we knew we could come back and play and win the game,Ã¢â‚¬Â Dawson said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We worked on what they would do on the option. Their passing was a little surprising to our secondary, but we knew what we had to do. We just had to do it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Dawson can do a lot. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why Oregon, the potential national champion, wants him on its team next year. Or why Florida, a recent national champion, wants him. Or why Kentucky needs him to rebuild. Tennessee, Michigan, Louisville and USC also are doing all they can to be his final choice.
Whatever his final choice might be, Dawson ended his high school career in memorable fashion. Certainly a one-side win would have been less nerve-wracking on French and the Boyle fans, but Dawson saved his best play for part of a dramatic comeback.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is a dream come true for me and our whole team. Our seniors wanted this. We wanted to win back-to-back (titles). The ride home is going to be good for all of us,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It would have bothered me the rest of my life if we had not won. This was my last high school game. These are the ones you remember.Ã¢â‚¬Â
French will, too, because he was proud of his teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s comeback and journey to a second straight state championship. However, he knows how vital Dawson was to the teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s belief that it could come back and win Friday.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Lamar probably factors into that a whole bunch because when No. 5 is out there, he is the best player on the field and makes everybody else better,Ã¢â‚¬Â French said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just that good.Ã¢â‚¬Â