HARTWELL, Ga. -- Self-destruction could best describe what happened to the Thomson High Bulldogs in their 24-6 loss to the Hart County Bulldogs at Herndon Stadium in Hartwell last Friday night.
Thomson, now 1-1 on the season, didn't play well -- especially on offense. The specialty team had problems, too -- allowing a long punt return for a Hart County touchdown.
"We just didn't play well," said Thomson head coach Luther Welsh. "We didn't play up to our capabilities. We just didn't get the job done. We've got to get our minds straightened out."
Coach Welsh believes his team needs to get back to the basics. "We can't afford to turn the ball over and expect to win football games."
The Bulldogs lost two crucial fumbles deep in their own territory, which led to Hart County touchdowns.
"Things didn't work out well for us," coach Welsh said. "And it's my job to make things work. I can't give up and I don't want them (players) to give up."
Coach Welsh said his Bulldogs defense "played about as well as they could, considering they were on the field a long time."
Thomson defensive standouts included: Jacoby Crawford, Anthony "Scooter" Moss, Ronald Jackson, Dontavis "Juicy" Brown, Linwood Few, Nic Wood, Leroy Cummings, John Atkins, Abram Cartledge and Shawn Bonner.
This week, Thomson has been preparing to face the Statesboro Blue Devils at 7:30 p.m. Friday in The Brickyard. Statesboro lost its last game 35-17 to the Burke County Bears.
"They're (Statesboro) going to be just as hungry as we are to get back to winning," said coach Welsh, whose Bulldogs defeated the Washington-Wilkes Tigers 28-7 two weeks ago. "I hope we can cut down on our mistakes and move the ball offensively when we play Statesboro. We've got another tough team to play. It doesn't get any easier."
After the Statesboro game, Thomson will play three straight weeks of region competition against Richmond Hill, Liberty County and Washington County with two games on the road.
"We've got the heart of our schedule coming up, so we've got to start improving in a hurry," said coach Welsh. "We've all got our work cut out for us."
In the loss to Hart County, Thomson put together an 80-yard scoring drive that culminated with a 17-yard touchdown by junior quarterback Phillip Anderson with just 21 seconds left in the first quarter. Junior place-kicker Jay Bieltz's extra point attempt was blocked.
A combination of runs by Brown, Brandon Huff, Nick Rau and Aaron Johnson made up Thomson's scoring drive. One of the biggest plays of the drive was a gamble on a fourth down and one situation at the Hart County 29. Moss ran the ball up the middle for the crucial first down. It would lead to Thomson's only score.
Thomson forced Hart County to punt for the second straight time. Again, the Bulldogs began a drive at their own 20. Moss had a big run to get to the 44. But the drive fell apart as Hart County's defensive unit began driving Thomson back. The Bulldogs ended up punting.
Hart County's Kelsey Rucker returned Phillip Anderson's punt to the Thomson 28 with a little more than six minutes to go in the first half. And then the other Bulldogs were in business.
Behind the running of junior quarterback Landon Beck and running backs Jermont Hickman and Stephon Eades, Hart County eventually scored on a 4-yard run by Hickman, a senior. A touchdown scored with 3:23 left in the second quarter and the extra point gave Hart County a 7-6 lead.
In the third quarter, Thomson's Jackson Douglas returned the kickoff to the Bulldogs' 41. But Huff fumbled on the first play, and Hart County recovered at the Thomson 35. Beck later found Quinn Sturghill open on a pass play. Sturghill zig-zagged into the end zone with 9:52 left in the third quarter. The extra point made it a 14-6 game.
Thomson had another turnover just before the end of the third quarterwhen Anderson was hit hard at the Thomson 14. Hart County went on to boot a 27-yard field goal to advance to 17-6.
Hart County would score another touchdown on a long punt return by Hickman with a just a minute left on the clock.