Luther Welsh wanted to put the rumors to rest Friday night at The Brickyard.When asked if he planned to retire, Welsh responded with a dumbfounded look and a definitive answer.
"I'm not going to quit coaching,'' said the 71-year-old Coach Welsh, in his fifth season on his second stint with the Bulldogs. "I don't know where they get all this from, I guess because of my age. But no. I've got four or five more years. And you can put that in black print, so everybody can see.''
Thomson's Casper Brinkley bears down on the quarterback.
Before Friday's 24-14 loss to Thomas County Central in the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs, Coach Welsh figured he'd be discussing the prospects of anotherrun to the Georgia Dome.
But Yellow Jackets Quarterback Erik Walden had other plans. Playing at less than full speed because of a sprained right knee, he rushed for 169 yards in a rematch of last year's state title game.
"My knee is not 100 percent, but it feels great right now,'' said Walden, whose team suffered a 42-27 loss to the Bulldogs last season. "We got some revenge for last year.''
Up 14-10 entering the fourth quarter after scoring two touchdowns in the third, Thomson (10-2) watched as the Yellow Jackets (11-1) scored touchdowns on back-to-back possessions.Walden rushed 13 times on the two drives, including a 20-yard run on an option that put his team up for good, 17-14, with 10:14 remaining in the game.
On the next drive, Walden carried six times for 52 yards - all on option plays - before Tailback Moses Cochran ran for a 4-yard touchdown with 4:36 left.Cochran had 139 yards on 21 carries.
"It's tough to lose, especially when you got back into the ball game,'' said Coach Welsh, who watched his starting quarterback and fullback leave the game with injuries. "We had a chance to go ahead and win, but we just couldn't hold them.''
Down 10-0 at the half, Thomson got back in it thanks to a dazzling display by Fullback Ricky Hill, who was the Bulldogs' fourth-leading rusher entering the game.Hill rushed for 178 yards on just eight carries, and his scoring runs of 78 and 35 yards gave the Bulldogs the lead in the third quarter. Hill, however, didn't touch the ball in the fourth quarter.
"He was tired,'' Coach Welsh said. "He was playing both ways, and he had a hurt ankle.''
An emotional Hill said he didn't know why he didn't get any more carries.
"I don't know what to say,'' he said. "I thought I was going to get it, but I just didn't.''
The Yellow Jackets drove to the Bulldogs' 5-yard line on their first drive, but two penalties pushed them back to the 14-yard line, and they had to settle for a 32-yard field goal.
Thomas County Central got into the end zone on its first drive of the second quarter, marching 80 yards on 12 running plays.
Thomson did a serviceable job in the first half of stopping Walden, who had 61 yards on eight carries before halftime. But he took over in the second half, running option left and right consistently.
"I don't think we missed assignments; we just missed tackles,'' Coach Welsh said.