SANDERSVILLE --- The Thomson High Bulldogs played one of their best football games of the season last Friday night. Nevertheless, they came up short, falling to the undefeated Washington County Golden Hawks 19-7.
"We played a lot better than we've been playing," remarked Thomson head coach Luther Welsh immediately after his team suffered their fourth loss of the season to go with a pair of victories. "Our kids tried. And they tried hard. Washington County just has an experienced football team and size at the line of scrimmage. Our kids put up a good fight. They didn't lie down and quit. We had some opportunities to win the ball game. We just weren't able to capitalize on those opportunities."
Washington County head coach Joel Ingram also complimented the Bulldogs for their outstanding efforts against his Golden Hawks.
"They (Thomson) fought like champions," coach Ingram told The McDuffie Mirror . "They gave us everything they had. What a game it was. It was tremendous."
Erase a couple of mistakes made by the Bulldogs in that game, and it might have turned out different, both coaches agreed.
"They really played us a great game," coach Ingram added.
The loss dropped the Bulldogs' overall season record to 2-4 and 1-2 in Region 3-AAA play.
This Friday, Thomson travels to the Metro Atlanta area to play Buford in what promises to be another big challenge. The Class AA football team defeated the Bulldogs in a homecoming affair in The Brickyard last year.
"It doesn't seem like our schedule gets any easier to tell you the truth," coach Welsh said. "It's been a tough schedule all year. If we can cut down on our mistakes, we've got a chance to win against Buford. But if we continue to make mistakes, then our chances of winning really go downhill, because they are a real good football team."
One of Thomson's big mistakes against Washington County was committed by the special team's unit. It came as a result of a high snap from center Nic Wood to punter Phillip Anderson following the Bulldogs' first offensive possession of the game. Anderson attempted to pick the ball up, but several Golden Hawks converged on him. Washington County had the ball at the Thomson 17.
From there, Washington County senior quarterback Markeist Warthen engineered his team to pay dirt. The touchdown was scored on a 1-yard run by senior fullback Darius Stephens. Javier Pace kicked the extra point to give the Golden Hawks a 7-0 lead with 7:10 to play in the opening quarter.
During the next two possessions by both teams, the game turned defensive. Both teams managed to stop each other and force punts.
One of the biggest defensive stops of the night by Thomson came on a third down and four play for Washington County at their 16. Thomson's Ira Embry, Denzel Burley and Anthony "Scooter" Moss combined to make a big play on Warthen -- thus forcing the Golden Hawks to punt the ball away for the second time in the first half.
Thomson's Dontavis "Juicy" Brown made a fair catch of the punt at the Thomson 41. That's when junior running back Jarques Kendrick, Brown and Moss put on dazzling running performances. The longest run came from Moss, who broke loose on a run from the Washington County 45 all the way to the 2.
Two plays later, Moss scored Thomson's first and only touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run with 6:10 left in the second quarter. Senior Jay Bieltz tied the game at 7-7 with his successful extra point kick.
Just before the half, Washington County kicked a field goal to go up 10-7. And in the second half, they scored a touchdown and a field goal. Thomson had chances to put more points on the scoreboard but squandered those opportunities.