By ZACH McFARREN | DGKN sports writer
Friday night in Jeromesville, something just felt off. The game was never out of control. Despite a wire-to-wire Hillsdale lead, Dalton was always within striking distance. And yet, the Bulldogs couldn’t completely close the gap. In the end, a disciplined, methodical Hillsdale team handed Dalton a 27-12 defeat and a difficult setback in the WCAL race.
From the opening possession, the host Falcons showed they could muscle the ball down the field while chewing up chunks of the clock. Dalton was down 7-0 following Hillsdale’s first drive, which took nearly seven minutes of the first quarter.
Dalton’s first possession was not as productive. Hillsdale would get their initial turnover of the night when they intercepted a Dalton pass near midfield.
Fortunately, defensive lineman Quentin Lehman was the man on the spot when he got the strip sack and recovered the Falcon fumble just a few plays later.
For the second week in a row, a defensive play seemed to spark the Dalton offense. And for the second consecutive week, Greyson Siders would provide the punch needed to find the end zone. Following Lehman’s recovery, the Dawgs went 52 yards in just over five minutes. Siders’ one yard score left Dalton down one with the momentum in their favor.
It didn’t take long for the home team to seize back the momentum and widen the gap. A nine yard rushing touchdown finished off a 60 yard Falcon drive on the ensuing possession. After forcing a Dalton punt, the Falcons pushed the lead to 14 after a second long, time consuming drive.
With 26 seconds remaining in the opening half, Dalton was able to get the ball near the goal line, but time was a twelfth defender, and at halftime, the lead remained 20-6.
With a half still remaining, the Dawgs were far from finished. They would get the ball to start the second half, they would score quickly, get a stop, and then close in and take the lead. Only, that’s not how it played out. Instead, the Falcon’s defense came out and refused to let Dalton crawl back into the game.
Dalton would total four possessions in the second half. The second of those resulted in a touchdown when Siders (7 carries, 96 yards, 2 TD) broke up the middle and sprinted 65 yards to the house. That brought the Bulldogs to within eight, and once again, Dalton seemed to have a glimmer of hope. Unfortunately, of the other three possessions, two ended in Hillsdale getting fourth down stops and one ended in a punt.
After Hillsdale extended the lead to 27-12 with 4:45 to play, Dalton was in desperation mode. The last serious threat ended on the Falcon seven yard line with a turnover on downs, and from there, the final was simply a matter of Hillsdale doing what it had done all night…run out the clock.
All is not lost. Dalton will have plenty to say concerning who will remain atop the WCAL. A showdown with league leading Northwestern next week provides the Dawgs an opportunity to make a statement and position themselves once again at the head of the county standings.
There is work to be done. There are games to be played. And the Dawgs will show up, ready to take what is theirs.