Every high school football fan in the area may have been looking ahead to this Friday's game between Thomson and Washington County, but the Bulldogs took care of the business at hand and sent Cross Creek packing, 25-8.
Without star fullback LaBrandon Hudson, Thomson needed someone to take up the slack on offense. Hudson has over 1,200 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in the first eight games of the season but was sidelined against the Razorbacks with a fractured finger.
Wingback Nathaniel Jones picked up where Hudson left off, running for 108 yards and two touchdowns on six carries in the win.
"I just credit the O-line, because without them, it wouldn't have been nothing," Jones said of his performance. "I probably still would have been in the backfield if it wasn't for them."
Thomson (9-0, 4-0 Region 3B-AAA) dominated much of the game. The Bulldogs took the opening drive 70 yards in 15 plays, eating up more than nine minutes of the first quarter.
Carlton Martin, filling in for Hudson at fullback, capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. Vincent Scott's extra point attempt was blocked.
"We've just got to get down to business and whoever's running the ball, it don't matter if it's (Hudson) or any other back we got, we always try to make a hole for whoever it is," said Thomson center Daniel Cheely.
The Bulldogs showed they can score quickly on their first play from scrimmage in the second quarter. Jones took the reverse handoff 79 yards down the left sideline to put Thomson up 12-0 with 10:51 left in the second quarter.
With 5:24 left before halftime, Thomson defensive lineman Deltrick Sneed recovered a Razorback fumble. Then, a 27-yard pass from quarterback Anthony "Pooh" Erwin to Jaquavious Surrency set up the next score.
Third string fullback James Bonner found the end zone from 8 yards out with 3:34 remaining before halftime. The 2-point conversion attempt was stopped short to leave Thomson up 18-0.
The Razorbacks (4-5, 1-3) had to go for it from their own 46 midway through the fourth quarter. An incomplete pass from quarterback Emory Wilson gave Thomson the ball on downs.
Halfback Kwynta "D.T." Brown took runs of 7 and 31 yards to set up Jones' second touchdown from the 10-yard line. Vincent Scott hit his first extra point of the night to put Thomson up 25-0.
Cross Creek passed its way to a score against Thomson's junior varsity defense with 1:55 left in the game. Wilson connected with receivers on plays of 5 and 29 yards before running it in for the score from the 1-yard line on his second try. He also ran in the two-point conversion.
Thomson's defense held Cross Creek to 68 yards on the ground and 93 through the air. But both sides of the ball will be tested against Washington County this week.
The Golden Hawks (7-2, 4-0) have only lost to high-ranked opponents Baldwin and Dublin early on this season. Since those losses and the start of the region schedule, Washington County has outscored opponents 291 to 35.
"We go out next week and practice, stay focused, and just go hard at it all day every day at practice," Cheely said of getting ready for Washington County.
This will be the second meeting of the two teams in as many years. Last season Thomson ousted the Golden Hawks in the first round of the state playoffs, 28-21. This year's regular season match up will decide the Region 3-AAA championship and playoff seeding.
"That's really going to be a big game because it's like the region championship game," said Jones who also plays on defense. "...We've just got to work hard, work on perusing to the ball because (Washington County running back) Roscoe Walls likes to cut back and stuff."
Walls averaged over 200 yards per game last season, racking up 2,211 yards on the season. But Thomson's defense held him to 112 yards on 27 carries in their playoff game. Walls said he's ready for Thomson this year.
"That's the game I've been waiting for all year. Just been waiting to get all over their butt," he said. "They stopped me for only a little over a 100 yards. This year we'll show those boys what Washington County Golden Hawks can do."
Meanwhile, Thomson's key rusher -- Hudson -- will make his return this week.
Morris News Service reports were used in this article.
Thomson 25, Cross Creek 8
Star of the game: Nathaniel Jones rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns on six carries while also playing cornerback on defense.
Play of the game: With 10:51 left in the second quarter Jones took a reverse 79 yards to put Thomson up 12-0.
Up next: Thomson (9-0, 4-0) travels to Washington County (7-2, 4-0). Game time is 7:30 p.m.