The Thomson High Bulldogs waited until the last football game of the season to finally play their best. Before a home crowd in The Brickyard last Friday night, the Bulldogs played the visiting Baldwin Braves to a 20-19 first half -- one of the most exciting first halves this season.
Unfortunately, they allowed the Braves a pair of unanswered touchdowns in the second half, which led to a 34-19 Baldwin victory and gave them a perfect 10-0 regular season finish.
The Baldwin Braves will be in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs next Friday, while the Bulldogs have finished with a dismal 2-8 season -- one of their worst records. It marks the first time since Thomson head coach Luther Welsh has been at Thomson that his Bulldogs haven't made the playoffs.
Nevertheless, the 77-year-old Welsh said he was pleased with the effort of his Bulldogs.
"Our kids played well," he said. "They really put fourth a great effort. It was the best game they've played all season. We have a lot of young players who just need to work hard in the offseason and come back with a desire to be winners next year."
Welsh said he was impressed by the play of both his offensive and defensive units.
"They really got after it against Baldwin," added Welsh. "We moved the ball pretty good, I thought, on them during the first half. Our backup quarterback, Josh Jones, played well, for us I thought."
The sophomore quarterback started his second straight game for the Bulldogs in place of injured junior quarterback Phillip Anderson, who still was nursing an ankle injury suffered in a recent game against West Laurens.
Jones, who had gotten his first start the week before against the Burke County Bears, displayed poise at the position -- tossing three touchdown passes during the first half and keeping Thomson's hopes of an upset alive.
"I just played the game the way the coaches wanted me to," said Jones. "I wanted to do the best I could do for them and my teammates if I got the chance to start at quarterback again."
Jones threw his first TD pass to Jalen Tucker -- a 4-yard reception with 1:18 left in the first quarter. Placekicker Jay Bieltz's attempt to tie the game at 7-7 failed when he missed the extra point. Jones later fired a pair of TD passes to Anthony "Scooter" Moss. Moss caught his first TD pass -- a 5-yarder -- from Jones with just 53 seconds left in the second quarter. And just a few seconds later, Moss caught an 11-yard pass following a fumble recovery at the Baldwin 30 with 36 seconds left in first-half action.
Thomson's two senior defensive linebackers, Denzel Burley and Linwood Few, both made several tackles and assists in the game.
"They played a real good game for us, too," said Welsh. "I couldn't have asked any more from two players. They really did a good job."
Thomson defensive coordinator John Barnett congratulates senior linebacker Linwood Few on making a fine play against Baldwin.[CAPTION]