Leading the pack: Senior Dawson Finch has big ambitions for Bulldog football

Dawson Finch is the ultimate competitor and a fearless leader. Those two qualities are huge bonuses for a starting quarterback.

Oh, and it definitely helps that Finch has a cannon for an arm to go along with above-aver-age speed and athleticism.

Mahomet-Seymour football plans to compete for the Apollo Conference championship, and Finch is going to be right at the top of the list. He's the straw that stirs the drink. The pied piper.

Finch doesn't just lead the Bulldogs out on Friday nights. He's the one yapping at teammates during summer sessions, and the one working out with his offensive linemen. Whether they like it or not, the quarterback is going to be the face of a team, and Finch has embraced it.

"I love the pressure," Finch said. "I love being the leader on the field, and I love being the guy in practice who is getting them going. I'm looking forward to being the senior guy who can teach the younger guys."

The Bulldogs finished 6-4 last year and lost in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. Finch nearly threw for 900 yards to go along with nine touch-downs and nine interceptions.

"6-4 wasn't a record that I was in love with, and it fueled my fire a little more," Finch said. "I want to end on a high note. I have confidence in my arm, but I knew that I needed more time in the film, reading defenses.

"There were games where I looked sharp, then there were games where I looked like a chicken with its head cut off. I have so much room to improve to just being relaxed and staying in the pocket a little more."

The senior is a three-sport athlete. Next winter, Finch will be counted on for big minutes on the basketball court, and he's just coming off a solid season on the baseball diamond.

Finch manned right field and teamed up with Dylan Gates and Brooks Coetzee to form a "No Fly Zone" in the outfield.

But football is where Finch can really excel, and M-S head coach Keith Pogue thinks Finch is poised for a breakout senior year.

"I think Dawson had a good year last year, but I think he could have a breakout year this year," Pogue said. "I think our offense will rely on what he's able to do and accomplish. He can really sling it, and he's a really smart kid. That's a unique combination, and I think it'll come together for him."

But Finch's expectations are even higher.

"I love winning, so my goal is to go 1-0 every week," Finch said. "I'm very competitive and I expect a lot out of myself. That's something that I'm known for. It doesn't matter if we're down by 20 or up by 20, I'm going to be putting in the work throughout the game."

Finch won't have to worry about his weapons. Jordan Veldman, Clay Hubble, Connor Thomason and Dylan Gates all are explosive athletes who are extremely versatile.

The challenge for Finch will be to not scramble out of the pocket too quickly. Finch will need to stand in there against the pressure and deliver the ball to his playmakers, instead of immediately scrambling at the first sign of pressure from the defense.

"Jordan Veldman, Dylan Gates, Clay Hubble and Connor Thomason, they are guys that I want the ball in their hands because I know what they can do," Finch said. "For me, I love to sling the ball around the field and I have complete confidence in them to bring it down and for them to go an extra 5 yards."

Veldman has been a stud for the Bulldogs since his sophomore season, and Veldman and Finch have an unbreakable bond.

"Me and Jordan have been best friends since we were 6 years old," Finch said. "We've been playing baseball, football and basketball together. I love him to death. He came in his sophomore year of football and burst onto the scene and put up incredible numbers.

"He's the type of player that you want on your team. Not only for what he can do athletically, but also leadership and he's able to do things in the weight room that you don't think a 5-foot-10 guy should be able to do. He and I have some of the best team chemistry that you'll ever see."

There have been some questions about the M-S offensive line, but Finch has been putting in the work in the weight room with his big boys.

Maurice Mendenhall and Kyle Kinney have the ability to change the ceiling of the Bulldogs team. If the offensive line can dominate the line of scrimmage, the Dawgs could be explosive offensively.

"I have so much confidence in my offensive line," Finch said. "Truly, they could be our X-factor this year when it comes to games. Mo Mendenhall and Kyle Kinney are coming back for their second year on the line and they have big roles for us as leaders on the squad.

"They'll have some juniors in there, guys like Jared Priest. He only played defense last year, but he's earned his opportunity to prove himself on the offensive line this year. I'm blessed because I'm able to work out with my offensive linemen. The things I see in there are incredible."

Finch has been a longtime fan of Pittsburgh Steelers gunslinger Ben Roethlisberger. He's also emulated his game after former M-S quarterback Joe Kenney.

Roethlisberger and Kenney both have huge arms, but it wasn't necessarily their on-the-field actions that left an impression on Finch.

"When you see them on the sideline, they are always talking to the offensive linemen, they are talking to the running backs, getting them fired up," Finch said. "That's the type of quarterback that I want to be."

Mahomet-Seymour does a really good job of supporting its athletics, but football is a whole different story. Almost every Friday night, Bulldog football games are jam-packed, and the student section is loud and energetic.

"It's incredible going down onto the field with the band in front of us," Finch said. "Mahomet always has packed seats, especially with Dawgapalooza; it's a time where it is so exciting and a surreal moment.

"I truly believe that we have the best student section in all the conference. They go nuts for us and go all out. Small town, Friday night lights doesn't get much better than that."

With Finch at the helm of the offense, the Bulldogs could be shaping up to have a terrific season. If their goals come true, it will be because of the work they've been putting in during the hot summer months.

"Coach Pogue really gets us going in the weight room and he expects us seniors to show the underclassmen how it is done," Finch said. "Coach Pogue has been focusing us on speed. The work he makes us put in is incredible, and he treats us right and he makes sure that we're working.

"My summer is busy, and I wouldn't lie to you and say that I'm not sore, but I love that extra work because I know that it'll be worth it in the fourth quarter when you're down by a touchdown to go with five minutes left. We were the team in the summer who put the extra work in. We did those extra sprints or the extra hills and hopefully, it will put us over the edge."

Categories (3):Prep Sports, Football, Sports

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