The Thomson High Bulldogs failed in their test to defeat the Burke County Bears last Friday night. And this week's contest between the Bulldogs and the Baldwin Braves in Milledgeville promises to be even more challenging, as the Braves are the only team in Region 3-AAA to still be undefeated going into the regular season finale.
"It's going to be another tough game," according to Thomson Head Coach Luther Welsh, whose team dropped a 34-20 decision to the Burke County Bears in The Brickyard. "Any time you face an undefeated team this late in the season, you know you're in for a big game."
The Baldwin Braves handed the Washington County Golden Hawks a 14-12 loss last Friday night to stay unbeaten this season. They now sport a 9-0 record.
Thomson will travel to Milledgeville on Friday night in hopes of pulling out what would be a major upset. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
"We'll have to play a heck of a lot of better than we did against Burke County if we expect to beat Baldwin," Coach Welsh said. "They'll be the best team we faced all season."
Against the Burke County Bears (6-3 overall and 4-1 in region play) of Head Coach Eric Parker, it was a game of region seeding. But rivalry games transcend even the playoffs.
In a battle of strong-willed offenses, Burke County demonstrated the better talent over a Thomson offensive unit that sputtered all season.
"We played a lot better offensively than we've been playing," Coach Welsh said. "I was pleased with some of the things that I saw us do, offensively."
The Bears ended up rushing for a total of 275 yards on 48 rushes, while Thomson (5-4 overall and 3-2 in region play) garnered 257 yards on 37 rushes in the game. Both teams were almost identical in passing yardage. Through the air, Burke County tallied 51 yards, while Thomson had 45 yards.
Burke County was led in rushing by Brandon Brown, who racked up 122 yards on 22 carries and scored on a pair of touchdowns. Quarterback Terrell Brigham, meanwhile, rushed 19 times for 111 yards. Brigham also scored twice.
Leading the rushing attack for Thomson was Jeremy McGahee, who finished with 110 yards on 10 carries. Senior quarterback Brandon Turman rushed 11 times for 83 yards, followed by James Bonner, 10-34 and Dontavious "Juicy" Brown, 6-30 yards, respectively.
Burke County scored a couple of times in the second quarter - Brigham getting the honors both times. The first one capped a nine-play drive that started on a questionable call of a fumble by Thomson's Dontavious Brown deep in Burke territory.
The ball squirted loose as Brown hit the ground to end first quarter action. Brigham later jumped into the end zone from the 1-yard line with 7:59 to play in the first half. Brigham later completed a touchdown pass to Bobby Burum from 20-yards out with just four seconds left before halftime that lifted the Bears to a 27-13 lead.
"We needed to stay after their quarterback," said Thomson sophomore defensive end Abram Cartledge. "Normally our defense does good, but our offense came out good tonight."
Still trailing late in the third quarter, the Bulldogs failed to convert on a fourth down and 25 situation - again deep in Burke County territory. Starting a drive at their 17, Burke County converted seven first downs on 15 plays before finding the end zone on a 5-yard Brigham pass to Tyreece Smith.
Thomson's last touchdown of the game came on a 15-yard run by McGahee with just five seconds remaining in the game. The Bulldogs' other two touchdowns came a 7-yard run by Bonner in the first quarter. Turman scored the team's second touchdown on an 8-yard run. Jay Bieltz booted 2-3 extra points in the game for Thomson.