Hard-hitting football action was what hundreds of fans got a chance to see at The Brickyard when the Thomson High Bulldogs and Lincoln County Red Devils tangled in a scrimmage game Friday night.
The game ended in a 7-7 tie.
And for the two legendary Georgia prep head coaches, it was their last meeting against each other on the gridiron. Thomson head coach Luther Welsh, 78, has decided to retire at the end of this season. Lincoln County head coach Larry Campbell, meanwhile, 61, plans to continue coaching a few more years. Together, the two coaches, close friends, have won more than 750 prep football games in their Peach State careers.
"It couldn't have ended any better," said Lincoln County head coach Larry Campbell, Georgia's all-time winningest coach. "It was a great scrimmage game."
Thomson head coach Luther Welsh, echoed those sentiments.
"It was a good ballgame," said coach Welsh. "It was like the first game of the year, because it was played like that. But we've got a lot of things to improve on. Offensively, we've got to work on everything."
The Bulldogs had several opportunities to score more than the one time they actually got into the end zone, but fumbles proved costly.
The same was true of the Red Devils, who not only coughed up the football three times, but also had a pass picked off by a Thomson defender in the second half.
"We had chances to score," said coach Welsh. "We just made too many mistakes."
The longtime Thomson coach said he hopes his players can learn from the experience they gained from the scrimmage game.
"I hope they learn from it so they won't make the same mistakes again," said coach Welsh. "We need to correct those things."
He strongly believes that if his players continue to work hard between now and the season opener, they will be better than last year's team that finished the season with a dismal 2-8 record -- one of the worst records in school history.
"I think it (football program) will turn around this season," he added. "We've just got to work harder and eliminate mistakes."
The Bulldogs played with nickel coverage, a four-man defensive line, against the Red Devils, who, like Thomson used two quarterbacks to engineer their offensive attacks.
"I thought we were very physical and made some things happen," said Thomson longtime defensive coordinator John Barnett. "We forced three turnovers. I think we can use this game to build on."
The defensive unit came up with four giant plays towards the end of the game, as Lincoln County attempted some of their traditional heroics, led by quarterback Garrett Mohr, son of former NFL punter Chris Mohr, who lived in Thomson for several years.
Thomson senior defensive back Terrance Bradshaw managed to intercept a deflected a pass that halted a Lincoln County threat with just over five minutes left to play in a game that was knotted at 7-7.
The Bulldogs weren't able, however, to hold onto the ball. They coughed it up on their next possession after getting all the way down to the Red Devils' 3.
Lincoln County mounted another serious threat when Mohr handed the ball off to one of his quick running backs, who broke loose up the middle for a gain of 40 yards.
The runner had to be pulled down from behind by Thomson's senior defensive back Ronald Jackson.
Luckily again for Thomson, it didn't pan out.
That time it was due to a fine defensive read by Thomson senior Jacoby Crawford, who upended a Red Devil running back in mid-air. It came on a fourth down play.
Behind junior starting quarterback Josh Jones, the Bulldogs began to move the ball again on their next possession with less than a minute and a half left in the game.
Jones completed a pass to Ronald Jackson and later kept the ball for a nice run before firing an incomplete pass to Jackson. On the next play, Jones was hit hard by two defensive players from Lincoln County, which caused him to fumble.
After Mohr failed on three straight downs to complete a pass, he made a desperate throw again on a fourth down.
It was caught by a receiver, who managed to get to the Thomson 39 for a crucial first down.
With five seconds remaining, Mohr threw to a receiver in the end zone. Again, though, a Thomson defensive player, Jalen Jackson, was there to break it up to end the game in a tie.
Lincoln County scored their touchdown on a 34-yard pass that Mohr fired to one of his many talented receivers about midway of the second quarter.
Thomson rallied back in the third quarter to tie the game on a 19 yard run by backup junior quarterback Tavis Walton.
The extra point was kicked by Antonio Davis, a freshman.
The Bulldogs' touchdown was set up on a 39 yard punt return by senior running back Dontavis "Juicy" Brown.
Aside from some fine runs by Brown, Jones and Walton, three other Thomson players also impressed coach Welsh. They included Anthony "Scooter" Moss, a senior; Torrie Battle and Chris Jordan -- both sophomores.