SANDERSVILLE, Ga. - Thomson fans had been hoping for a repeat of last year's win over Washington County in the first round of the state playoffs. Just as expected, this year's regular season-ending battle decided the Region 3-AAA championship.
But the Golden Hawks' defense proved too strong for the Bulldogs. Thomson came out on the losing end, 17-0 in the House of Pain after being held to 160 total yards of offense.
"We played good defense," said Thomson coach Luther Welsh. "Offensively, we didn't block well whatsoever, and if you don't block well, you don't have any offense. So that's basically what the whole deal was."
Thomson held star running back Roscoe Walls to 111 yards on 23 carries; he had totaled over 1,500 yards in the nine previous games. Washington County coach Joel Ingram had only praise for the Bulldogs' coaching staff and their game plan.
"They're as well-coached as any football team in the state of Georgia," Coach Ingram said. "I told Coach Welsh after the game, he's one of the inspirations for what our offensive philosophy is. Stick to what you believe in, the running game."
In the defensive battle, Washington County cornerback Deon Harden scored the first touchdown of the game. With 2:40 left in the first quarter Harden picked off an Anthony "Pooh" Erwin pass and returned it 80 yards for the score.
Harden saw the end zone again with 2:28 remaining before halftime. Walls took the pitch to draw the defense and then tossed the ball deep downfield to a wide-open Harden for a 62-yard touchdown.
The closest Thomson came to a score was at the 6:16 mark of the first quarter. Cornerback Rodney Roberts picked off a Vantroski Jordan pass and took it to the end zone, but a block in the back called the touchdown back.
With the Golden Hawks keyed on Thomson fullback LaBrandon Hudson, he only rushed eight times for 41 yards. Quarterback Anthony "Pooh" Erwin managed only 40 on 12 carries.
"Pooh Erwin and LaBrandon Hudson are going to make plays," Coach Ingram said of Thomson's speedy backfield. "You've just got to try to contain them, and they're great football players."
The Golden Hawks opened up the second half on their own 27 and took the ball to the Thomson 9-yard line in a 15-play drive. They stalled there, but a 26-yard Dykel Johnson field goal put Washington County up 17-0.
Next up for Thomson is cross-state drive to Columbus to face Carver (9-1) in the first round of the state playoffs. Region 2-AAA plays a 10-game region schedule, and Carver's only loss this season was to an undefeated LaGrange, 13-6.
"They're big, and they have some good ball players," Coach Welsh said of the Bulldogs' next opponent. "They're much larger than we are, and run three different types of offense."
Coach Welsh said this week of practice leading up to the Carver game consisted of much blocking work.
"It's not difficult if our people just block," he said. "It's not who to block. It's just, dad gum it, block them."
Thomson 0, WaCo 17
Star of the game: Lonnie Harris had eight solo tackles and six assists.
Play of the game: Midway through the first quarter, Cornerback Rodney Roberts intercepted a pass that would have been returned for a touchdown had it not been for a block in the back.
Up next: Thomson (9-1, 4-1), the No. 3 seed from Region 3-AAA, travels to Columbus to face Carver (9-1), the No. 2 seed from Region 2-AAA.