SANDERSVILLE, Ga. --- Thomson ended three consecutive seasons of frustration to Washington County to win 45-38 in double overtime in a much-anticipated Region 3-AAA inter-division showdown on Friday night.
Thomson defensive back CerlontrÃ© Ez McGahee broke up a 20-yard William Walker pass into the end zone to Juwan Burden on fourth down to end the game. The Bulldogs' defensive stand in the second overtime included back-to-back sacks after Washington County had first-and-goal at the 4.
"It means a lot," said Thomson senior defensive nose guard John Atkins of the Bulldogs' first win in the House of Pain since 1988. "They beat us three years straight and we had to get one." No. 9 Thomson (3-0) trailed 24-13 at halftime after giving up two touchdowns in the final 1:19 of the first half to Washington County. But the Bulldogs rallied immediately with 18 points on their first three possessions of the second half to take a 31-24 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The big spark in the rally was Torrie Battle's 87-yard shovel pass and run for a touchdown, with Josh Jones' ensuing conversion pass to tight end Jordan Davis tying the game at 24-24.
"We went into the locker room and I told them if you don't believe you can win you won't," said Thomson coach Milan Turner. "But I believe we can win."
Washington County tied the game in the fourth quarter on a perfect 41-yard touchdown strike from Walker to Burden, then the Golden Hawks took the early advantage in overtime on a Savon Washington run.
But Jones and Battle hooked up again for the Bulldogs on third down at the 12, with the running back hauling in a touchdown pass despite tight coverage in the corner of the end zone to tie it and force a second overtime.
Thomson reclaimed the lead 45-38 when Chris Jordan scored his second touchdown of the night on a 4-yard run.
Jones threw for three touchdowns and ran for another.
"This was an opportunity to go 3-0 and an opportunity to make a statement for Thomson football to come into the House of Pain and win," said Turner. "I thought that would be a big statement against a good football team." Thomson had scored 53 and 57 in its first two games, both on the road, while Washington County's only loss was a close one at Statesboro, which is ranked No. 3 in Class AAAA.
The Golden Hawks have held the upper hand in a series that resumed annual matchups in 2005, winning four of the previous six including a record three straight over the Bulldogs including 26-6 last year at The Brickyard. But Thomson leads the overall series 29-11-0 including two win streaks of nine (1983-2005 and 1962-72).
The Golden Hawks rallied twice from deficits with three touchdowns in the second quarter, two in the last 1:19 after capitalizing on a late Thomson fumble. Two plays after Quin McClain scored his second rushing touchdown to put the Golden Hawks ahead 17-13, Shakial Wicker recovered a Bulldogs fumble at the Thomson 26 with 44 seconds left in the first half.
After runs of 13 and 12 yards by quarterback William Walker, the junior playmaker hit Tadavis Henderson on a rollout right for a 2-yard score with six seconds left to break open what had been a back-and-forth battle.
Thomson made its only defensive stop of the first half and scored promptly on its opening possession, going 83 yards in only three plays. The last two were runs of 40 and 39 yards by Torrie Battle and Chris Jordan respectively.
Washington County's offense, however, rolled the rest of the half. Drives of 11 and 12 plays resulted in a 40-yard C.J. Joiner field goal and a 17-yard touchdown run by McClain to put the Hawks ahead 10-7 early in the second quarter. The TD drive covered 86 yards and lasted 6:02.
Thomson answered, going 60 yards to regain the lead when Tavis Walton made a shoestring catch of a Josh Jones pass on third down for a 4-yard score. A bad placement spoiled the conversion attempt and left it 13-10 Bulldogs with 4:06 left in the second.