HEPHZIBAH - Through the years when the Thomson High School Bulldogs have journeyed to South Richmond County to play the Hephzibah Rebels, they have found that beating the host school wasn't as easy as they first thought.
The same was certainly true last Friday night as the two teams battled throughout the first half with neither defense allowing a score.
In the second half, the Rebels struck first.
Rebels quarterback Connell Reddick found Tomarez Jenkins in the end zone of the opening drive of the second half to give Hephzibah (2-3) a 6-0 lead.
And that score seemed to be just the spark Thomson High needed.
"I believe in the second half we really decided to hunker down and really decided we were going to have to fire off the ball," Thomson senior center D.J. Hitt said. "We were going to have to stay low and drive off the line and not give up."
Thomson fullback James Bonner rattled off first downs nearly at will in the second half to help Thomson (3-0-1) pull away and come up with a 27-6 win.
The Rebels were only able to move the ball on an occasional pass play in the first half. The normally potent Thomson running game came out flat, and even failed to score on fourth and goal after pushing the ball to the Hephzibah 3-yard line with 2:19 remaining in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Thomson senior quarterback Brandon Turman made it around the left edge of the Rebels defense for a 10-yard gain, but was hit, causing a fumble that resulted in a turnover.
Hephzibah took over on the Thomson 24.
One run and three incomplete passes later, Thomson reclaimed the ball on downs.
Once Thomson's defense found its footing, the marching didn't stop. Turman chucked a short pass to Bonner who weaved his way to the end zone from 63 yards out with 4:35 in the third quarter for Thomson's first score and a 7-6 lead.
"The kids just made up their minds they wanted to do it," Thomson coach Luther Welsh said. "I don't think coaching had anything to do with it. This was a big win for us, but we've still got some work to do to get better."
As for the game against Benedictine of Savannah this Friday night at The Brickyard, Coach Welsh said he's looking for the visiting team to be a much improved team over last year.
"I'm certain they are better than they were last year when we played them," Coach Welsh said. "They were younger last year. They'll be a little more experienced than they were last year."
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, will be looking at continuing their winning ways and remaining undefeated.
After Thomson plays Benedictine, a private military school, the Bulldogs will then entertain Butler's Bulldogs before hitting the road back to Augusta the following week to clash with the Glenn Hills Spartans.
"All we can do right now is to take it one game at a time," Coach Welsh said. "We're showing signs of improvement as a football team and that's really all we're looking to do at this time."
Thomson 27, Hephzibah 6
Star of the game: Thosmon Fullback James Bonner's persistence finally paid off the second half as he rolled off first downs and yards.
Play of the game: Thomson quarterback Brandon Turman found an open James Bonner for a 63-yard touchdown pass with 4:35 left in the third quarter.
Up next: Thomson (3-0-1) will play host to Benedictine.