PHOTO BY LISA McGINTY | LMc Photography
Tate Geiser leads the Bulldogs onto the field during the homecoming game Friday against Hillsdale.
DALTON Two halves. Two stories.
For the first 24 minutes Friday night, Dalton and Hillsdale played evenly. Neither team played perfectly, and both took advantage of the other’s mistakes. And at the end of the first half, the score was tied at 14.
Then came the second half. With it came a Bulldog dominance and another runaway win. But the final 41-20 score was not as convincing as one might think.
Dalton started the game quickly as the Bulldogs grabbed a muffed kickoff and found themselves with a short field. 32 yards later and less than a minute into the contest, quarterback Ethan Stutz hit a slanting Owen Beatty (4 receptions, 40 yards, 1 TD) for a six yard score.
Dalton would start drives inside Hillsdale territory on each of their next two possessions. After the Falcons tied the score at seven with a 24 yard reception by Caden Fickes, Hillsdale attempted, and failed to execute, an onside kick. The Bulldogs took over on the 48 but could not push the ball into the end zone. Their next possession started on the Falcon 33 yard line following a Hillsdale punt. This time, Dalton wouldn’t be denied.
Jaden Schlabach punched it in from five yards out for his first of three touchdowns of the evening, and with it Dalton took a seven point lead. Hillsdale would respond, however. Eating up much of the remainder of the first half clock, the Falcons drove 73 yards and tied the score at 14 when Jake Hoverstock hit Cole Sinnett for a 10 yard touchdown.
Hillsdale came to Dalton ready to fight. The first half was a testament to that as the Falcons showed a great deal of toughness, a fact that Dalton head coach Broc Dial was well aware of.
“We respect Hillsdale as a program, their players, and their coaches. They are well coached, tough, and athletic,” Dial said after the game.
As for the second half, which saw Dalton outscore the Falcons 27-6? Well, Dial said it was due to the athletes he has on his team.
“Players make plays,” Dial said. “Our players played with better discipline in the second half. Our seniors played like seniors and made great football plays.”
Those players and the plays they made started with Jaiden Malone.
After somehow managing to elude a sack, Stutz (17 of 24, 199 yards, 2 Td, 1 INT) threw it up to Malone in the end zone and let the senior receiver do his thing. After wrestling away the pass from the defender, Malone (7 receptions, 93 yards, 1 TD) had a 25 yard touchdown reception and a seven point lead for the Dawgs.
Stutz would push that lead to 14 when, on the ensuing possession, he muscled his way in for a one yard score. Then, Schlabach decided he wanted a seat at the table as well.
On Dalton’s next two possessions, Schlabach scored his second and third touchdowns of the night as he scored on runs of 49 and 29. Schlabach would finish the night with 143 yards on 12 carries and three touchdowns. His last score gave the Dawgs a 41-14 lead and ultimately put this game on ice.
Despite a competitive first half, the Bulldogs once again flexed their muscle in the final 24 minutes of play. The offense was efficient. The defense was suffocating. And the special teams set up both sides of the ball beautifully.
Another week, another Dalton victory.
With three weeks remaining in the regular season, the Dawgs look complete. But each week will bring a new story. Stay tuned.