The Thomson offense still has a lot of kinks to work out as it adjusts to the new flex offense for the 2011 season.
Coach Milan Turner's Bulldogs struggled to move the ball and committed five penalties in the first three-and-a-half quarters Friday night in Lincoln County. But they got it together just in time for a 7-3 victory, thanks to a 10-play, 89-yard drive.
"Our kids have a lot of guts, and a lot of pride," Turner said.
It wasn't all praise, though, when the coaching staff spoke to the team at midfield after the victory.
Turner made sure the first thing he did was remind his players that it's going to be a long season and they have plenty of room for improvement.
"There is a lot to work on," he said. "We've got what we need."
Running back Chris Jordan scored the game-winning touchdown on a two-yard run with 40 seconds left, but the heroes of the drive were senior quarterback Josh Jones and his wide receiver, Tavis Walton.
The senior had a 10-yard run and made his only catch of the game on the drive, a 38-yard completion on fourth down that saw him elude several Red Devils.
"It was a curl flat read and I was reading the outside linebacker and he cleared out and Tavis was wide open," said Jones, who impressed Turner with his scrambling ability throughout the night.
After that play, the nearly full crowd behind the Thomson sideline erupted into cheers more befitting a regular season game than a scrimmage in which no kick returns or punt returns were allowed.
As he celebrated with friends and teammates after the game, Walton said his "blood was pumping" during the final drive, and he knew he had to make a big play for the Bulldogs.
He praised his coaches and teammates and added that his confidence is going to be "way up" going into the season.
Turner used plenty of different players during the scrimmage, which he said might have kept his team from getting into a rhythm.
Walton and Jones both agreed that the offense is still a work in progress, with two weeks to go until the season opener at Washington-Wilkes.
"A lot of these kids I had to play tonight never had played in a varsity game and they've never run this system against another team that's a good team," Turner said.
The offense nearly got some help from the special teams in the third quarter, when Mar'Jerius Moss' blocked punt appeared to be returned for a go-ahead touchdown.
However, an illegal block brought the ball back to the Lincoln County 35-yard line, where the Bulldogs failed to get a first down.
"We got frustrated a lot of times but coach he gave us confidence to never give up and keep playing," Walton said.
The offense wouldn't have even had a chance to win the game if not for the play of Thomson's defense, which held strong all night, especially when it needed to most.
After giving up a 48-yard pass late in the first half, the Bulldogs didn't let Lincoln County get the remaining two yards it needed for a touchdown, and the Red Devils had to settle for a field goal.