The Brickyard had been friendly confines for the Thomson High Bulldogs during their first two football games this season. But the visiting Washington County Golden Hawks who traveled to the old stadium from Sandersville had other ideas in mind last Friday night.
Unlike the Bulldogs who had won their first two games of the season, the Golden Hawks came into the contest with Thomson having tied Jefferson County 21-21 in their opener and then losing to Statesboro 19-14 the following week.
Both Thomson and Washington County took the third week off this season. It gave them nearly two weeks to prepare for the upcoming confrontation between each other.
Once the game got underway between the two rival teams, it was clear to see that the Golden Hawks were better prepared, even though both teams played to a 6-6 first half score. The final score reflected that the Golden Hawks were the much better team -- at least last Friday night. It was evident statistically and in the final score, 26-6.
"I don't have the answer," lamented Thomson head coach Luther Welsh when asked what happened. "I really can't tell you. You can't just play a quarter and not play the other three quarters. You've got to play four quarters of football."
Thomson assistant head coach John Barnett pointed out, "We just got our butts beat -- that's all I can say."
The Bulldogs came into the game realizing that one of the biggest keys to pulling out a victory over the Golden Hawks was to keep senior running back Montravious Gladdin from becoming a factor.
It was a mission the Thomson defensive unit failed to accomplish, despite some fine plays from time to time.
Gladdin ended up with his best performance of the season. He rushed 21 times for 204 yards and scored three touchdowns. Another Washington County player, junior running back Savon Washington rushed for 138 yards on 14 carries.
"We've had a lot of up and downs this season," admitted Washington County head coach Joel Ingram. "We've been beating ourselves and making a lot of mistakes. Tonight, we started fast and finished fast, which is what we want our players to do every game. We finished and I'm proud of this team for doing that."
Coach Ingram noted that he was "absolutely honored" to have been on the field coaching with coach Welsh.
"Coach Welsh is one of the greatest coaches I've ever been around," coach Ingram said. "We're all going to miss him when he retires."
In the first half when both teams squandered scoring opportunities, coach Ingram said he thought to himself: "Oh crap, it's another typical time in The Brickyard."
As it turned out, Gladdin, Washington and Dantavious Whitaker provided the Golden Hawks the offensive firepower that was needed, while sophomore defensive tackle Michael Shelby had a career night, sacking Thomson junior quarterback Josh Jones four times.
It seemed every time the Bulldogs attempted to get a little something going offensively in the second half, Shelby was somewhere around to single-handedily thwart the threat.
Thomson got into the end zone on their opening drive of the game following a 29 yard kickoff return by senior running back Dontavious "Juicy" Brown.
Brown, along with Shawn Bonner and Jones carried the ball for nice gains on that first possession before senior wide receiver Ronald Jackson eventually ran for a 15 yard touchdown. It came with 8 minutes left to play in the first quarter. Telles Cardoso's extra point attempt, however, failed. Nevertheless, Thomson led 6-0.
The Bulldogs missed a golden opportunity to increase their lead when junior defensive back Trez McGahee recovered a Washington County fumble at the Golden Hawks' 25 just nine seconds after Thomson scored a touchdown.
Thomson drove the ball a little further downfield, getting to the Washington County 14 before the Golden Hawks' defensive unit rose to the occasion. They sacked Jones on a third down play. On a fourth down play, Jones attempted a pass into the corner of the end zone to junior tight end Jalen Tucker that was unsuccessful and turned the ball back over to Washington County.
The Bulldogs stopped another Golden Hawks' drive early in the second quarter on another turnover. After getting down to the Thomson 31, Gladdin was hit hard by senior linebacker Jacoby Crawford which caused him to loose the football. Crawford quickly recovered it and Thomson was back in business again.
Again, the Bulldogs moved the ball well. They drove all the way to the Washington County 10. There, coach Welsh decided to go for a field goal. But Cardoso's 26 yard attempt never got up in the air and was easily blocked by the Golden Hawks.
Washington then showed his exceptional speed for Washington County, as he took a handoff on a second down play and got outside Thomson's secondary on a long run down the sideline before being tackled by senior linebacker Anthony "Scooter" Moss.
Gladdin later got the ball into the end zone on a 1 yard run. The extra point attempt by C.J. Joiner failed.
The second half was dominated by Washington County. Offfensively, Gladdin took the control, while defensively, the Golden Hawks limited Thomson to just two first downs.
"They just shut us down in the second half," coach Welsh said.