JACKSON, Ga. - The Thomson High Bulldogs are alive and well in the Class AAA football playoffs.
Though it took the Bulldogs two trips in two days from Thomson to Jackson to get the job done, they did what many thought was the impossible. They defeated the previously unbeaten Red Devils 28-14 last Saturday night to advance to the second-round of the playoffs against LaGrange. That game will be played this Saturday night at Callaway Stadium in LaGrange with kickoff set for 6 p.m.
Originally, the game between Thomson and Jackson had been scheduled for Friday night, but because of a strong thunderstorm packing gusty winds and sharp lightening, the game was postponed until the following night. Unfortunately, the Thomson team already had departed for Jackson and so had dozens of their fans.
As it turned out, going back home and then traveling back the next night wasn't so bad - at least for Thomson. The Bulldogs came back and upset the Red Devils, eliminating them from the playoffs after they had gone all season with a perfect 10-0 record.
A first-round playoff jinx, which had tormented the Bulldogs for the past two seasons, is now gone. Players, coaches, fans and the student body of the school couldn't be happier.
"There was definitely a different atmosphere around the school (on Monday)," said Thomson Defensive Coordinator John Barnett. "You could sense that everybody felt good about the big win."
It was noticeable to Thomson High Principal Rudy Falana last Friday.
"The kids' attitude at school was different," said Mr. Falana, as he stood in the football stands at Jackson last Saturday night, rooting on the Bulldogs like many others did - braving cold, prevailing easterly winds. "It was a good feeling."
Less than 24 hours after the original game had been set, the Bulldogs' supporters showed up in force.
As excited as the Thomson team appeared during pre-game warm ups, it quickly spilled over into the stands. Cheerleaders, as well as members of the Thomson High Marching Band played their roles, too. The excitement on the Thomson side was contagious.
From the opening kickoff until the final second ticked off the scoreboard clock, the Thomson Bulldogs played intensely on both sides of the football.
The mistakes of past games were just that - in the past. The Thomson Bulldogs finally played with the kind of intensity that had been lacking in previous big games this season. Such was just the opposite when they went challenging Jackson's Red Devils.
It was the kind of game where hard hits, big plays and strong-willed determination on the part of the Thomson players proved to make the difference.
"We wanted to come out and show that we were a better football team than what we've been showing," said legendary Thomson High Head Coach Luther Welsh. "And that's exactly what we did."