WAYNESBORO, Ga. -- Both Thomson and Burke County knew exactly what was on the line when they met each other on the football field at The Bear Den in Waynesboro last Friday night: the playoffs.
Both teams faced the possibility of being ousted from the playoffs. Such became a grim reality for the Thomson Bulldogs -- thus marking the first time Thomson has been bumped out of the playoffs under the leadership of head coach Luther Welsh in his two stints with the Bulldogs.
"Anytime you lose, it's disappointing," coach Welsh said immediately after his team suffered their sixth loss of the season to go with just two wins. "It probably hurts a little more because this is the first time it's ever happened to me at Thomson."
After his remarks, coach Welsh walked off the field by himself, his head hanging with dejection following his team's 28-7 loss to the Bears.
Thomson will close out their football season when they host the undefeated Baldwin Braves of Milledgeville this Friday night. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
A loss would cap one of the worse football seasons in the history of Thomson High School. An upset win, however, could propel the Bulldogs to a promising future.
The Braves will be coming into the contest after a big win over the previously undefeated Washington County Golden Hawks of Sandersville. Last year in Milledgeville, Thomson lost to Baldwin, but played well in spurts. Again this Friday night, the Bulldogs look to have their hands full.
"It's going to be another tough challenge, just like the whole season has been for us," said coach Welsh during an interview on Monday. "We've just not had a good season. We should have had a lot better season than we did. And as head coach, I take the blame for that."
Burke County head coach Eric Parker, whose Bears are now 6-3 overall and 2-3 in region play, was complimentary of coach Welsh and the Bulldogs.
"Thomson is the best 2-7 team I think I've ever played," said coach Parker. "They played a lot better than their record."
Thomson got off to a terrific start, scoring on the game's opening possession. It followed a 17-yard kickoff return by Dontavis "Juicy" Brown.
The Bulldogs were led by sophomore quarterback Josh Jones, who got a chance to play the entire game because of an ankle injury suffered by junior starting quarterback Phillip Anderson in last week's game against West Laurens. Jones turned out to be Thomson's leading rusher in the game with 10 carries for 46 yards.
During the touchdown drive, Thomson got nice runs from Brown and Shawn Bonner before Anthony "Scooter" Moss scored on a 3-yard run with 6:21 left in the first quarter. Senior placekicker Jay Bieltz kicked the extra point, which gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead.
It didn't hold up long, though, because Burke County, behind talented quarterback Terrell Brigham, quickly marched the Bears downfield to tie the game.
The touchdown came on a 65-yard pass from Brigham to Bob Osborne who managed to get a couple of steps ahead of Thomson defensive back Ronald Jackson. After the catch, Osborne ran straight for the end zone, getting in without being touched. The extra point kick knotted the game at 7-7.
Just seconds before the first half ended, the Bears scored again. It was set up on an interception thrown by Jones, who was starting at quarterback for the first time with the varsity team. Burke County's Keyon Lewis returned it 60 yards downfield to the Thomson 18.
The Bears went on to post touchdowns in both the third and fourth quarters -- taking the Bulldogs out of the game.
Several defensive players turned in a good game against Burke County. They included: Linwood Few, Abe Cartledge, Denzel Burley, Jacoby Crawford, Nic Wood, John Atkins, Anthony "Scooter" Moss and Marquavious Jones.