DUBLIN, Ga. - An improved offensive line helped aid Thomson High School to a 42-3 shellacking of the West Laurens Raiders last Saturday night and kept the Bulldogs' hopes for the playoffs alive.
"It was a good win for us on the road," remarked Thomson Head Coach Luther Welsh after his team's lopsided win in what was West Lauren's last game at Raider Field. A new stadium and school is now under construction. "I thought our offensive line improved. We've still got some problems, but they played better than what they've been playing. We blocked better and that was pleasing to me."
The game between the two teams was postponed to Saturday due to heavy rain across much of the state on Friday.
Coach Welsh also was pleased that his team was able to run and throw the football as well as they did against the Raiders.
"We did a decent job for a change, offensively," said Coach Welsh, whose Bulldogs are now 5-3 overall and 3-1 in region play. "We've just got to continue to improve."
Thomson faces one of their biggest challenges of the season when they renew an old rivalry with the Burke County Bears this Friday night at The Brickyard. This past Friday, the Bears of Head Coach Eric Parker knocked off previously unbeaten Washington County 28-24 to keep their playoffs alive and well. Earlier this season, the Bulldogs bowed to the Golden Hawks 20-0 at home.
"It's going to be a big test for our kids," said Coach Welsh of the upcoming game against Burke County. "They are a pretty good football team, so we're going to have to play good football all night long, if we're going to beat them."
In past years, Thomson and Burke County have played several big games against each other. This year's game is just as big as any one of those games.
Coach Parker realizes how the magnitude of this week's game, too.
"We've got another good team coming down the road," Coach Parker told The Augusta Chronicle after his team's upset win over Washington County. "We've got to get ready for Thomson because I know they won't be welcoming us real nice."
The Bulldogs are expected to be challenged with a balanced running and air attack from the Bears.
"It's going to be another tough game for us," said Coach Welsh. "They can run with the football and they can pass it. Defensively, our secondary will be tested, because they throw the football so well."
Kickoff for Friday night's game is set for 7:30 p.m.
One of the star offensive players for the Bulldogs in their win over West Laurens last Saturday night was senior running back James Bonner, who made several nice runs in both the first and second halves.
"I thought I ran hard all night," said Bonner. "I tried to stay with my blocking."
As for the upcoming game against Burke County, Bonner said the Bulldogs will have to be more focused than they were when they played Washington County.
"We're going to have to play a lot better than we did against Washington County," said Bonner. "If we focus and do the right things, we've got a chance of beating Burke County."
Senior running back Jeremy McGahee, who was on the receiving end of a long touchdown pass in the game against the Raiders, had a strong message for Burke County:
"It's going down in The Brickyard on Friday night."
In the game against West Laurens, the Raiders and Bulldogs traded a pair of punts before Thomson took advantage of a dropped punt by Tyler Pool at the Raiders' 2. Just one play later, Bonner scored Thomson's first touchdown of the game. It came with a little more than three minutes left in the first quarter. Jay Bieltz kicked the extra point, giving Thomson a 7-0 lead they never relinquished.
A field goal by West Laurens' Dylan Smith, which was set up on a 60-yard run by Johnny Smith, turned out to be the only scoring of the night for the Raiders. The rest of the scoring belonged to Thomson.
Hard running by Bonner helped the Bulldogs get back into the end zone early in the second quarter. The drive culminated on a 1-yard plunge by senior quarterback Brandon Turman. Bieltz added the extra point, lifting Thomson to a 14-3 lead.
Other Thomson scores included:
• Turman, a 1-yard run with 2:37 to play in the second quarter - Bieltz extra point;
• Brontavious McNair recovered a fumble in the end zone with 2:12 left in the first half to give Thomson a 28-3 lead at halftime - Bieltz added the extra point;
• Jeremy McGahee, a 73-yard pass from Brandon Turman - the longest pass play this season - coming with 6:40 left in the third quarter. Bieltz booted the extra point to make it a 35-3 game; and
• Bonner, a 35-yard run with 9:24 to play in the game - Adam Dent kicked the extra point, which gave Thomson a 42-3 lead.
Some of Thomson's other offensive and defensive standouts included: Lonnie Harris, Isaiah Modlin, Allen Smith, Will Anderson, Abram Cartledge, Denzell Burley, Anthony Moss, Darius Eubanks and Tresvatis Chambliss.