Dickson Middle School dominated the competition all season long in the Big South Conference, and its rematch against Lewisburg in the Big South Conference Championship Game was virtually a lock weeks in advance. Shockingly, the Tigers started hot and built up a sizable lead to seemingly put the game away, but the homestanding Dragons and eighth grader Darian Burns mounted a furious second half comeback before running out of time and energy in the final minutes. For the second time in three years, DMS won the regular season BSC title, but came up short in the title game, as Lewisburg held off Dickson 34-22.
Dickson got the opening kickoff, but on the first play from scrimmage Burns fumbled the football, and Lewisburg recovered. Wesley Walker was the featured player for the Tigers, and he was involved in nearly every play they ran. Walker ran the football on Lewisburg’s first six plays, the last one a 27 yard touchdown. On the two point try, KJ Johnson found Devontavious Wilson through the air, and with 5:40 left in the first DMS trailed 8-0.
The Dragons moved the ball well on their next possession, picking up two first downs with Burns and Triston Corlew carrying the mail. The drive stalled at the Lewisburg 40, however, as Colton Harris tried to find tight end Kody Pardue on third and long and fourth and long. Both passes were incomplete, so the Tigers took over on downs. Five plays later, four of them Walker runs, the Tigers scored again on the first play of the second quarter, Walker finding the endzone from 45 yards out. Johnson’s pass for two was incomplete, so it was 14-0 Lewisburg. The Tigers shocked Dickson with an onside kick and recovered, then rushed Walker twice to set up a double pass–Johnson to Mitchell Ford, then Ford to Wilson for 11 yards and a first down. The Dragon defense then stopped Wilson on an end around rush for a half-yard loss, but the Tigers pounded away with four more rushes from Walker and a couple more first downs. The Lewisburg offense would then stall inside the Dickson 30, with an incomplete pass, a false start followed by an 11 yard QB draw from Johnson, and a big run from Walker called back for holding. Lewisburg would try Walker again on third down, but tripped and fell for no gain, and their fourth down gamble with Walker also came up short.
Dickson got the ball back on downs late in the first half, but couldn’t get much going. A 10 yard run by Burns gave the Dragons a first down, then a wildcat-formation false start cost them five yards. Burns was stopped for a loss on two straight plays, but got 10 yards on fourth and long as the second quarter drew to a close.
Lewisburg got the ball to start the second half, and only needed three plays to pad their lead. Johnson found Wilson through the air for a 50 yard touchdown pass, and though Walker was stopped on the two point try it was still 20-0 Tigers with 6:39 left in the third. On the ensuing Dragons possession, Burns got a yard on first down, then Harris was unable to connect on three straight passes, giving the ball back to the Tigers at the Lewisburg 45. Johnson found Walker through the air for a huge 37 yard catch run for a first down, then three plays later Walker ran for 16 yards and another score. Big Number Nine in blue, Walker, added the two point conversion on another rush, and the Dragons were down 28-0 with 3:45 left in the third.
The Dragons started their fifth possession of the day with an incomplete pass to Corlew. They then gave the ball to Corlew, who was stopped for a loss of two. That third down play was when everything changed for Dickson. Harris found Burns for 17 yards and a first down through the air, the first DMS completion of the day. As the Maroon and White headed into the hurry up, Harris fed Burns five times in a row, and the eighth grader responded with 6 yards or more on each rush including an 11 yard scamper. Harris hit Corlew for the successful two point conversion, and with 45 seconds remaining in the third Dickson was on the board down 28-8.
Lewisburg answered back on their next drive, finishing the third quarter and rolling into the fourth with a five play scoring drive. One play was incomplete and another a three yard draw by the quarterback Johnson; the other three plays were Walker rushes, including a 40 yard burst for another touchdown. Bruising fullback Hunter Lancaster tried to rush for two, but he was stopped short to keep the margin at 34-8 with 6:26 left in the fourth.
On its next possession Dickson went back on the attack with Burns. He ripped off runs of 17, 16, 9, 8, and 18 yards before the winded Tiger defense could even hold him to a two yard rush. On the very next play, Burns rammed ahead and scored from 22 yards out, and after a false start on the two point try pushed the Dragons back, Harris found Corlew again to make it 28-16 with 4:24 left.
The Dragons tried and recovered the onside kick, then fed the beast again with Burns. Six plays later, all Burns rushes, a two yard burst up the left side saw Burns cut into the lead again. Though he was stopped short on the two point try, the Lewisburg lead had been cut to 34-22 with 3:02 left. Miraculously, Dickson again recovered the onside kick, and picked up a first down with a 13 yard Burns rush. After an incomplete pass, the clearly exhausted Burns ripped off a run of 9 yards on second down, lost a yard on third down, then converted on fourth down. The Dragons rushed ahead, with Burns picking up another first down on their next play and putting DMS firmly at the 9 down by 12. Burns would have just one more carry in him, ramming for 3 more yards down to the 6, but the running back could barely stay in the game after that. Harris would throw two more incompletions before Wilson picked him off on fourth down and was dropped at his own 1 yard line. Johnson would sneak the ball twice to avoid the safety, and the clock would run out on a huge Cinderella comeback.
Walker finished with over 225 yards of offense and four touchdowns in a winning effort, but Darian Burns was clearly the player of the game with over 316 yards of total offense–260 of those in the second half–and all four of his team’s touchdowns, despite trailing 28-0. Dickson finishes the year with a record of 5-2 overall, runners up in the Big South Conference.