The Thomson High School Bulldogs just keep adding to their misery on the football field.
For the sixth time overall and fourth time in as many weeks, the Bulldogs lost Friday night. The West Laurens Raiders, of Dublin, Ga., defeated the Bulldogs 35-25, putting a damper on Thomson's homecoming celebrations.
The Bulldogs, now 2-7 overall, still aren't out of the running to notch a fourth spot in region play and get into the playoffs. For that to happen, Thomson would have to win their next two games over the Burke County Bears and Baldwin Braves. Winning either of those games looks bleak, seeing as how both of those teams have played well all season.
Even longtime Thomson head coach Luther Welsh admitted that such a feat would be difficult.
"We need to win those last two games, but I'm afraid that's going to be a tough challenge because we haven't been playing very good football," Welsh said. "We're going to do our best. That's about all I can say about those games right now."
As for the loss to West Laurens, coach Welsh said his Bulldogs got down on themselves after the Raiders jumped out to a 14-0 lead.
"It broke our spirit a little bit, but I was proud that we didn't lie down and just take it; we fought back," Welsh said. "We're just too small and too slow at some positions. We don't have a lot of experience at several key positions and that has hurt us all season. We've got what we've got and that's it where players are concerned."
West Laurens scored on their second possession of the game. It came on a 59-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Ross Miles to senior wide receiver Trell Showers with 3:41 left in the first quarter. The extra point kick by Dylan Smith made it 7-0 Raiders.
An errant pass by Thomson junior quarterback Phillip Anderson with 1:23 to play in the opening quarter gave the ball right back to West Laurens. Anderson's pass had been intended for sophomore wide receiver Jalen Tucker, but it bounced off his hands into the waiting hands of West Laurens' Dolphus Wells.
From the Thomson 39, Miles hit Showers through the air for a score. Suddenly, the Raiders led 14-0 and seemed determined to spoil Thomson's homecoming. The Bulldogs didn't buy into it, though, and ended scoring twice in the second quarter to get themselves right back into the thick of the contest.
Thomson's first TD was set up on a nice kickoff return by junior wide receiver Nick Rau that set up the Bulldogs at their own 48. Dontavis "Juicy" Brown broke loose and dashed down the West Laurens' sidelines from 52 yards. He scored with 11:22 to play in the second quarter. Jay Bieltz's extra point was blocked, which made it a 14-6 game.
The Bulldogs' defensive unit later forced West Laurens to punt. Thomson managed to get great field position after a personal foul was called against the Raiders. As a result, Thomson scored another touchdown.
Thomson senior running back Brandon Huff demonstrated his speed with a break-away run from the Raiders' 49 to the 5-yard line. Huff got the call from there and scored with 8:43 to play in the first half. Brown attempted to run for the 2-point conversion, but his effort failed. At that point, Thomson trailed West Laurens 14-12.
The Raiders wasted no time pulling away from that slim lead on their next offensive possession. Rodney O'Neal ran for a long gain before being stopped by Thomson's Linwood Few, a senior linebacker, who like the team's other starting linebacker, Denzel Burley, played an outstanding game -- both recording several tackles.
West Laurens' quarterback threw his third touchdown pass of the night with 3:42 to go in the second quarter. The 10-yard pass was caught by Terrell Hines and increased the Raiders' lead to 21-12.
A Thomson turnover led to another West Laurens TD with just 31 seconds remaining before halftime. The turnover was the result of a fumble that occurred after Nick Rau caught a pass and attempted to get more yardage on the play.
In the fourth quarter, West Laurens blew the game wide open, as they scored again to make it 35-12.
The Bulldogs tried to make it interesting with back-to-back touchdowns in less than three minutes.
With 3:49 left, Thomson's Nic Wood got the thrill of his prep career by recovering a fumble. After scooping the ball up, he ran all the way to the end zone for the TD. Bieltz booted the extra point to make it 35-19.
Bieltz was later successful with an onsides kick, which the Bulldogs managed to recover at the 50. From there, they were again in business as reserve quarterback Josh Jones took over the offense. Jones hit Rau on a pass down to the Raiders' 2 -- flipping backwards to make the catch. Huff later scored on a 1-yard run.
Thomson's Rau attempted another onsides kick, but the Raiders recovered and kept the ball until the final buzzer.
Thomson's Nic Wood scoops up a fumble and heads to the end zone for a touchdown. Jay Bieltz booted the extra point to make it 35-19.