HINESVILLE, Ga. - Thomson's Clay Dent hit a 25-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter to put the Thomson Bulldogs up 3-0 over Liberty County High School this Friday night in region 3-AAA football action.
Thomson improved to 2-1 (1-0) in the first region game of the year. Liberty County remains winless after three games.
"It's good to win," said Thomson Coach Luther Welsh. "...It may be ugly, but it's sure better than playing good and losing."
Thomson took over on the Liberty County 37 yard line with 2:35 to play after a short punt by Liberty County. After a penalty and two incomplete passes, Thomson was faced with third and 15.
An inside reverse by Wingback Ryan Heacock moved the ball down to the Liberty County 32 yard line. The Dogs elected to go for it on fourth and three behind the new offensive backfield formation. Sophomore Quarterback Jarell McNair rushed for 17 yards around left end for the first down.
McNair moved the ball to the Liberty County 8 yard line on the next play, but now a race against the clock was on. Thomson called its final timeout with just 16 seconds to play. McNair took one more shot into the endzone, but the pass fell incomplete, stopping the clock with only 12 seconds remaining in regulation.
Enter Clay Dent. With the score knotted at zero, no timeouts left, and only 12 seconds to play, Dent nailed the 25-yard field goal giving the Dogs their only lead of the night. Liberty County attempted one pass after the ensuing kickoff, but it was intercepted by Travis Scholar to secure the victory for Thomson.
Clay Dent proved to be Thomson's biggest weapon on the night. Dent was 1 of 2 on field goals including the 25-yard game winner. Dent also helped the Dogs win the field position game. He punted 5 times for an average of 40 yards. The long punt of the night was 51 yards, which pinned Liberty County at its six. Four of the five punts put Liberty inside their own 20.
"Pretty much, he's the one that won," said Coach Welsh. "He does a good job, much improved over last year. He punts much better, and his extra points are much better. ...That's a weapon, and any time we can use it, we're sure going to use it."
Led by Montrell Walker, Tobias Kendrick and Kelcey Neal, Thomson's defense held Liberty County to just 59 yards for the game, allowing only 17 yards in the second half. Orlando Johnson, Vincent Scott and Travis Scholar combined to intercept three of Liberty's six pass attempts.
Thomson nearly scored two other times in the fourth quarter. Johnson fielded a fourth quarter end-over-end punt off the second bounce and ran it back for a touchdown. The Dogs were called for a block in the back, negating the return.
Thomson put together one of it's better drives of the night, pushing down to the Liberty 15. On fourth and 16, the Dogs attempted a 32-yard field goal, but missed wide left.
For Coach Welsh it was the same story this week that it has been for the whole season.
"The defense played well, and the offense didn't," he said. "We got a few sparks offensively. When they do things right, they move the football. We just can't be consistent with it."
This week the Bulldogs travel to Burke County in the second region contest of the year. Last year, under the leadership of University of Georgia signee Marcus Washington, Burke County upset the Bulldogs in the Brickyard 24-21.
Washington has graduated, but the Bears still boast a 3-0 record this season. Thomson leads the series, dating back to 1986, with a record of 13-10.
"Burke County is about the same as they were last year, minus the linebacker. They lost him, and that's a big loss," Coach Welsh said. "It'll be a tough one for us unless we come off and start blocking and knocking people off the line of scrimmage. Then it might be a little easier."
Staff Writer Kristopher Wells contributed to this article.
Thomson 3, Liberty County 0
Star of the game: Clay Dent kicked the winning field goal, a 25-yarder, with 0:12 remaining in the game. He also had five punts averaging 40 yards, four of which put Liberty County inside its own 20.
Play of the game: Travis Scholar intercepted a Liberty County pass with only seconds left in the game to protect the 3-0 lead and secure the win for the Bulldogs.
Up Next: Thomson (2-1, 1-0) travels to Burke County (3-0, 1-0). Game time is 7:30 p.m.