ELBERTON - Thomson coach Luther Welsh's game plan for Friday night's season opener at the Granite Bowl against Elbert County was to do what the Bulldogs do best, dare the opponent's defense to stop the run.
When your offensive line averages 282 pounds, that seems like a solid plan. Thomson's hard-fought 14-0 win was evidence of that.
Running back Tim McCord evades a tackler on Thomson's first play from scrimmage.
"Man, when you got a line like that, all you got to do is keep pounding, pounding and pounding," Thomson running back LaBrandon Hudson said. "You don't have to get very fancy. You just keep on grinding, and eventually something good will happen."
Thomson didn't attempt a single pass, instead methodically kept grinding yardage before Tim McCord's 11-yard run with 7:45 remaining in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference in the game.
Rodney Roberts' interception with 4:18 left sealed the victory for Thomson, which added a final touchdown on Hudson's 3-yard run.
Elbert County had ample opportunities to score. A 60-yard kickoff return by LaJarvis Goss to begin the third quarter set the Blue Devils up inside Thomson territory before bogging down at the 32.
Subsequently, a fumble by quarterback Anthony Erwin gave Elbert the football at Thomson's 39, until a fourth-down run fell a yard short at the 16.
"We had our opportunities, but Thomson's a strong team with a big line," Elbert County coach Jeff Arnette said. "We knew they were going to come right at us and dare us to stop them. We did a good job there for three-and-a-half quarters, but just wore out a little at the end."
There was nothing fancy with the way Thomson attacked Elbert County's defense.
THS Quarterback Anthony "Pooh" Erwin turns the corner against Elbert County.
The Bulldogs kept pounding the middle of the Blue Devils' defensive line, with Erwin either keeping the football or handing it to running backs Kwynta Brown and Hudson.
There was just one problem - Thomson's smash-mouth style played right into the Blue Devils' strength.
Thomson ran the ball 28 times in the first half, compared to just 15 offensive plays from the Blue Devils. However, the Bulldogs managed only 64 yards before the break, 53 coming on a 16-play drive that bogged down at the Elbert County 20-yard line after failing on fourth down.
But Thomson's defense proved just as stingy. Elbert County only managed 27 yards in the first half, 20 courtesy of quarterback Riley Yeargin, who completed 3-of-6 passes to three different receivers.
Next up for the Bulldogs is their oldest rival, Washington-Wilkes. This year, Thomson has the chance to tie the all-time series with the Tigers. Currently, Thomson is behind 37-38-5, according to ThomsonFootball.com.
Defensive Coordinator John Barnett said the game against the Tigers is always a good way for him to tell just how good the Bulldogs could be during the rest of the season.
"The WW game is always a slugfest," he said. "I've always considered it a measuring stick for our team. ...In years we've been able to beat them, we have generally gone on to have a successful season. ...We've won at least 9 games every season that we have beaten them. They always play us hard and we have to be ready to fight for 48 minutes."
Thomson has defeated Washington-Wilkes the past four years in a row.
Thomson - 14
Elbert County - 0
Star of the game: In a defensive match up, linebacker Montrell Walker led Thomson's stifling defense to a shutout with nine total tackles in a game Coach Welsh said was "probably the best game he's ever played."
Play of the game: Quarterback Anthony Erwin broke off a 19-yard run early in the fourth quarter putting Thomson inside the Blue Devil 50-yard line. Five plays later, Tim McCord's 11-yard touchdown run broke the 0-0 tie.
Up Next: Thomson High (1-0) plays host to Washington-Wilkes (1-0) Friday night at The Brickyard. Game time is 7:30 p.m.