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Training the troops: Welsh hopes to squash injury bug

The injury bug bit early this year, and it bit the Bulldogs hard. Key players on both sides of the ball will be missing for Thomson's opener against Elbert County Friday night.

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Thomson High School Head Coach Luther Welsh makes a point during practice.

But the coaching staff hopes to hem the seemingly endless tide of injuries by filling holes in the lineup with capable backups. If they can hold off just long enough for the starters to get healthy, the coaches think this season will be a decent one.

"We could be alright," said Luther Welsh, THS head coach. "We've just got to make sure we get them ready when they get back into playing shape."

Right now both halfbacks, Brian Hobbs and Clifton Belton, are sidelined with injuries. Offensive Tackle Scott Jenkins and Tight End Arcephus Jones are out as well. Coach Welsh said the positive side is that younger players are getting valuable experience.

And experience is something relevant to the Dogs' schedule. Several teams from this year's schedule will be familiar to the Bulldogs even though Thomson dropped a classification from AAAA to AAA.

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Zach Grant breaks away from the pack.

Opponents from last season that Thomson will play again this year are Washington Wilkes, Burke County, Cross Creek and Hephzibah. The positive part of the schedule adjustment, according to Coach Welsh, was not having to travel very far.

"The travel will be great for us. We only have one long trip," he said of the Sept. 4 game at Liberty County.

Even though the schedule was slightly altered, the preparation for it hasn't changed. Both the offense and the defense will be ready by kickoff of the first game.

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Coach Rodney Garvin goes over a play.

Behind Quarterback Dan Ivey's arm, the offense hopes to be throwing the football a little more this season to give the offense a balanced attack. Coach Welsh's worried that if they rush every play, opponents will stack the line and stifle the offense.

"We're trying (to pass), and we need to, and I'm working on it," Coach Welsh said. "But we're not too good at it. ... I'm for throwing it more than we have, if we can, but if you can't then quit worrying about it and do what you can do the best."

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On the other side of the ball, eight starters are back from last year's smothering defense. But the three spots that were left open have some big ones to fill. Casper Brinkley, Justin Callaway and Ricky Hill were the heart of the defense last year.

According to Defensive Coordinator John Barnett, the secondary is the most experienced area of the defense. He also said Defensive End Rico Murray -- who is currently injured -- and Linebackers Montrell Walker and Dan McNair will be keys to successfully holding their opponents.

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Coach Garvin hands the ball off.

He said the younger second stringers aren't ready for the big-time yet. Despite the experience of his starters, Coach Barnett said they still need work.

"We have made too many mistakes in technique and reads," he said of the defensive play during the two scrimmages. "The big plays we have given up have been due to our errors. We have to be more consistent."

Another adjustment in this year's lineup is a new punter. Now at the Air Force Academy, Justin Martin gave opponents terrible field position with his booming kicks last year. Clay Dent will be handling punting duties for Thomson this season.

"He's getting better and better," said Coach Welsh. "One thing about it, we aren't going to over kick the coverage, and that's a plus."



Web posted on Thursday, August 19, 2004


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