Just a year ago, the Thomson High School Bulldogs did something not many thought possible, simply because they weren't considered serious contenders early on in the season. As the season progressed, the Bulldogs became more determined to do what some thought impossible. They became one of eight boys' basketball teams to make it to the Class AAA Elite Eight Championship.
"We accomplished a whole lot last season," recalled Thomson High Head Coach Michael Thomas. "We're hoping to do even better than that this season. Our goal is to win a state championship."
Coach Thomas, who begins his 25th season at Thomson High, has never won a state title, even though the Bulldogs have gone to the state playoffs a number of times. Through the years, the Bulldogs have even gone to the Final Four on two occasions.
"I believe we have the talent to get us back to the Elite Eight again this season," said Coach Thomas. "Maybe we can even go much further than we did last season. That's the hope anyway."
He credits the success of previous teams at Thomson High School to having had a lot of talented players, as well as to God. For Coach Thomas doubles as a pastor, too. A longtime member of Springfield Baptist Church in Thomson, he now preaches at a Baptist Church in rural Emanuel County.
"God has been good to me and our boys' basketball program at Thomson High School," said Coach Thomas.
Several former basketball stars have gone on to play college basketball. Two of them even made it to the NBA.
Last season, the Bulldogs finished with an overall record of 20-11. After the first two games this season, Thomson is 1-1 - winning by four-points (76-72) in their season opener on the road against Jefferson County's Warriors and losing their latest game on the road to T.W. Josey's Eagles by 10, 84-74.
This year's team is bolstered by nine seniors.
"Our seniors are definitely the nucleus of our team this season," said Coach Thomas. "They will have a lot of big roles to fill for us, including leadership."
One of the best players on the team is the son of a former star basketball player at Thomson High School - Tim Daniels - who now serves as a junior varsity assistant coach. His son, a guard, is a natural shooter and an exceptional defensive player.
"Tim is a pretty good basketball player," said Coach Thomas. "We're expecting him to have a great season."
Aside from his skills on the basketball court, Daniels also will be countered on heavily for his leadership qualities, along with LaQuinton Fort.
"Those two players are going to be counted on a lot this season, but overall, we're looking at the success of our program being a team effort," said Coach Thomas. "We're asking them to a do a lot, but I believe they can handle it. They've been in the program for a few years now and I think they've got a pretty good idea of what we expect. I feel they can convey that well to the other players."
Coach Thomas, who is assisted by Coach Chuck Graham, believes his team has the talent to go far this season and believes that his team controls their own destiny.
"We have the pieces of the puzzle," he explained. "It's just getting those pieces to fit in the combination."
Coach Thomas feels this year's team is more talented than the team of a year ago. "We've got a lot of talented basketball players on this year's team," he said. "Only time will tell, if they have the other intangibles."
The Bulldogs also are blessed with an abundance of character this season.
"Character plays a big part in our basketball program," said Coach Thomas. "Having character is demanded."
His plan this season is to have a two-platoon system. It will be like a 10-player rotation.
"I've always wanted to have a two-platoon system," said Coach Thomas. "We didn't have the muster that we needed in the playoffs last season to get us over the hump. This is going to get us over the hump down the stretch, we hope."
Last season, the Bulldogs needed more bench strength and simply didn't have it, he pointed out. As a result, Thomson fell to West Laurens by three points in the third-round of the GHSA Elite Eight Championship.
"I hope this is our season to win it all," said Coach Thomas.