OZARK -- At first glance, Ozark senior quarterback Dawson Dietz seems out of place on a high school football team.
Dietz (5-foot-10, 175 pounds) has the physical attributes of an older player and carries himself with a maturity level not often seen in the prep ranks.
His play this season for the Hillbillies has also been of the next-level variety.
"He's been a starter for three years, and he's improved each year and been a great leader," said Ozark coach Jeremie Burns. "This year, especially, he's been able to run the offense the way we want it ran."
In the Hillbillies' spread offense, a dual-threat quarterback is needed to make the system work effectively. Dietz's 18 touchdowns through the air and five on the ground prove his ability to score either way. After starting for three years, which is rare in high school, Dietz has evolved into a sort of triple-threat quarterback -- one who can pass, run and think.
Over the course of his career, Dietz has put up some impressive numbers with almost 5,000 passing yards, 1,600 rushing yards and more than 50 touchdowns combined.
Dietz credits Burns with helping him understand the game and see the best places to attack opposing defenses through meticulous study.
"That's something coach Burns has helped me really learn," Dietz said. "He's really opened my eyes to the game of football, how to read defenses and find our best matchups."
After injuries struck early in the season, the Hillbillies (8-2) lost to Booneville and Charleston in the first three weeks of the season. The former turned out to be one of the top teams in Arkansas football this season, while the latter was a one-point loss that could've gone either way.
Dietz and the offense recovered to average over 38 points per game in the current seven-game win streak that followed.
"It's been a great year," Burns said. "Up front, this is one of the strongest lines we've had in several years. They did a good job pass blocking for Dawson, as well."
Ozark defeated Elkins 28-12 to earn the 4A-4 Conference championship in the team's last contest before the bye week last week. The Hillbillies will host Lonoke (7-4) tonight in round two of the Class 4A playoffs.
Elkins focused on taking away the pass by doubling Dietz's favorite targets, senior Hayden Sanders and junior Bryant Burns, at various points throughout the game.
The quarterback responded with a 10-carry, 58-yard performance on the ground that complemented huge rushing performances from sophomore Tyler Sanders, who ran for 201, and senior Eddie Graham, who added 131 and two scores of his own.
"That night was special, winning a conference championship with these guys," Burns said. "I don't know if we really talked that much after the game, but he was pumped. It's been a few years since we won the conference, and I'm just super proud of the work he's put in."
Tonight Dietz, who has passed for 4,826 yards and 45 touchdowns in his career, will have the opportunity to show that the bye week served as a nice break for the Hillbillies' offense.
"I'm just gonna have to come in and be focused every day and push my teammates to be focused," Dietz said. "[We're] taking this just one week at a time and not trying to look beyond Friday night. Let everything else play out."
When Dietz's Ozark career concludes, he plans on attending the University of Arkansas for his undergraduate degree and pursuing a pharmaceutical career. He said the life lessons he's learned from football will carry over into his adult life.
"I've spent a lot of time lifting, preparing for football, and I've just kind of done a lot of research into that and how our body reacts to different things we put in it," Dietz said of his chosen field.
Still, he said he hopes all that energy put into lifting will translate into a state-title run and give him ample strength to lift the trophy in the end.
AT A GLANCE
NOTABLE A three-year starter at quarterback for the Hillbillies. … This season, Dietz is 101 of 157 passing for 1,773 yards and 18 touchdowns with 8 interceptions. … In his career, Dietz is 304 of 512 passing for 4,826 yards and 45 touchdowns with 28 interceptions. As a runner, Dietz has 254 carries for 1,678 yards and 20 touchdowns. … Was an all-state selection in 2017. … Against Dover this season, Dietz completed 6 of 10 passes for 332 yards and 4 TDs.
Sports on 11/16/2018
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