With last year's injury-laden start to the season, the Thomson coaching staff just wanted to keep everyone healthy through the opening weeks of practice and the two scrimmages.
Compared to the number of key players on both sides of the ball that were out last year just prior to the first game, this pre-season has been a successful one. But if Head Coach Luther Welsh has anything to say about it, the work on fundamentals is never done.
Thomson High School Head Coach Luther Welsh ponders his next move during a recent scrimmage.
"We'll work on blocking," he said after the Bulldogs' 14-7 scrimmage game win over Screven County.
Coach Welsh said the offense is still lagging behind the advancement made by the defense through the preseason. Starting Quarterback Anthony "Pooh" Erwin said the defense pushes the offense to get better every day at practice.
"They're progressing somewhat, but they need to get better than what they're doing," Coach Welsh said. "We want to try and catch up with the defense, but we hadn't gotten there yet. It's just going to take a lot of, I guess you'd say patience and a lot of work."
But Defensive Coordinator John Barnett said the players on his side of the ball still need a lot of work to get where they need to be as well. He added that they have plenty of raw talent, but still need some game situations to hone their skill.
"It's still too early to tell just how good we are at this point," Coach Barnett said. "Lincoln County, while traditionally strong, happens to be a very young team this year. I know our defensive line is very quick and has some experience, but our defensive ends are still untested. The linebackers are quite capable and the secondary shows flashes of being good, but we haven't tried defending a good passing team yet."
Leading the way for the defense are veteran starters, Montrell Walker, Kelcey Neal and Orlando Johnson. Coach Barnett said those three must lead by example for the team to live up to its potential.
Thomson Head Coach Luther Welsh leads his team in drills during a recent practice.
Several of the offensive leaders this season will be younger than in years past. Erwin is a junior, as is Fullback LaBrandon Hudson. Sophomore Kwynta Brown will see a good deal of action at running back this year.
The offensive line, while primarily untested and in need of speed, is large with three players over 300 lbs. Several on the line along with veteran Running Back Tim McCord will provide senior leadership to an offense that is steadily improving.
"I think every week they're going to look better in what they're doing," Coach Welsh said. "The kids are trying real hard, and as long as a kid tries real hard, he's going to get better."
As the team improves each week, so does the strength of the Bulldog's opponents. Two of the season's toughest games, according to Coach Welsh, are the last two against Glenn Hills and Butler. He also mentioned fourth game opponent Burke County as a strong team.
"I'm very concerned about the athleticism of Elbert County and the traditional toughness of Washington-Wilkes," Coach Barnett said of the first games on the schedule. "Liberty County has a great deal of speed. Both Cross Creek and Burke return almost every starter. I guess you could say that I'm extremely concerned about everyone we play at this point.
"I take nothing for granted and take no team lightly. As a defense, we had 2 bad games last year and those were the ones we lost. We have to bring our A-game every week."