Hurricane Frances may have changed the plans for the Thomson-Liberty County game Saturday night, but it didn't slow down the Bulldog's running game. Thomson took a slim 13-12 win in the Brickyard against its first of two cross sub-region opponents.
Thomson (3-0) has given sluggish offensive performances in the first halves of its first two games. Not so against Liberty County (0-3). The Bulldogs ran for 177 yards in the first half and scored the game's first points on a 6-yard Dan Ivey run in the second quarter.
Liberty defenders drag down Thomson's Demarcus Wilson.
"We do some things pretty good at times. We're just not consistent," said Thomson head coach Luther Welsh. "I think when we get consistent we might be a pretty decent offensive football team."
Thomson's defense didn't want to be outdone either. They held Liberty County to 38 total yards of offense in the first half and 50 in the second half. The Panthers scored on a 32-yard field goal as time ran out on the half to cut the Thomson lead to 6-3 at the break.
With 8:33 remaining in the third quarter, Liberty County kicker Casey Hale sent the ball through the uprights again, this time from 27 yards out. The field goal tied the game at six.
Moving the ball proved easier for the Bulldogs throughout the night. Putting it in the endzone was a different story. Ivey broke a 26-yard run to the 4-yard line late in the third quarter. Three plays later Demarcus Wilson pushed in for the touchdown.
"We're not happy because we feel like we can play better, and we feel like we should play better," Coach Welsh said.
At the end of the third quarter, the Panthers began a nearly eight minute drive from their 30-yard line. Ernest Walthour capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run. Hale had an extra point attempt that would have tied the game at 13 with under 6 minutes remaining in the game.
But the Bulldogs wouldn't let it happen. The attempt was blocked, and the Thomson offense kept the ball on the ground for the rest of the game to preserve the 1-point win.
"I'm always glad to win. It's better than the alternative," Coach Welsh said.
Bulldog Running Back Clifton Belton led Thomson with 79 yards on 15 carries. He was followed closely by Ivey who had 78 yards on 13 carries. Thomson came up with 16 first downs on the night and held Liberty County to eight.
The win, according to the website footballfridaynight.com, gives Coach Welsh 287 wins, the eight most in state history and the fourth most among active Georgia coaches.
Thomson players just miss blocking a field goal in the first half against Liberty County.
Up next for the Bulldogs is the familiar rival Burke County (1-2). The Bears beat single A Jenkins County 48-0 in their season opener, but fell to Lincoln County 7-6 and Cross Creek 17-13. Burke County has a decent defense according to Coach Welsh.
"They look similar to all the teams we've played so far," he said. "They're not real big, but they've got a linebacker that's committed to Georgia, so he's a good football player."