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Thomson’s Quan Rodgers, left, and Nolan Norman bring down a Jackson runner.

The Thomson Bulldogs survived a second half surge and a game ending challenge from the Jackson Red Devils to advance to the second round of the state playoffs Friday night.

The Dogs came away with a 21-20 win at The Brickyard with no time on the clock to maintain a perfect season and earn the right to host the Ringgold Tigers (10-1) Friday night. Thomson led 21-14 with 3:35 left in the game when they punted to the Devils. The visitors mounted a drive from their own 36, with Okemus Grier Jr. carrying the ball much of the time.

THS called a time out with 32 seconds on the clock and an offside penalty against the Dogs gave the Devils the ball at the 2 yard line. Thomson’s defense surged and stopped Grier and the Devils called a timeout with 4 seconds left. As the clock hit all zeroes, Grier scored and Jackson kicked the extra point to seemingly tie the game. However, an offside penalty against the Dogs convinced the Devils to try for a 2-point conversion and the outright win.

Grier charged the left side of the THS line but was stopped by Thomson linebacker Quinshaw Hearst and the Dogs celebrated the win as Thomson fans erupted. The two teams battled scoreless until the Bulldogs got a touchdown with 1:53 left in the half on a 5-yard pass from Tay Martin to Jalik Johnson.

On the Devil’s next series, Thomson’s defense pressured the Devil quarterback causing a fumble which Thomson recovered at the Devil 14. A play later, Jontavious Curry charged into the end zone from 8 yards out. With 2 minutes left in the third quarter, Thomson went up 21-0 after Kindarius Green scored on a 10-yard run. The momentum shifted towards the Devils who scored two touchdowns, the first on a 71-yard run from Grier and the second on a 7-yard run by Dawson Livingston.

Thomson Head Coach Michael Youngblood said the Bulldogs hung on despite having trouble scoring in the second half.

“We were able to jump out on the early and have out on the early and have some success and used our speed and quickness to establish ourselves,” he said. “As the game went on, their big bodies wore on us a little bit.”

The coach said when the games shifted to the Devil’s favor, the visitors capitalized on things THS did wrong.

“That’s when we got into a dogfight,” Youngblood said, adding the first half went according to plan. “In the second half, we got the ball three times inside their 50 and we weren’t able to do anything with it. We needed to get some type of points and didn’t.”

Curry led Thomson in rushing with14 rushes for 79 yards of Thomson’s 235 total yards. The visitors amassed 285 yards of offense, 234 of those being rushing yards. Grier rushed 23 times for 224 of those yards. Martin, who was 7-14-0 passing for 71 yards through the air, was next with 64 rushing yards. In penalties, Thomson was flagged 17 times for 163 yards, while the Devils were penalized 10 times for 87 yards. Youngblood said the miscues helped the Devils through critical situations.

Ashton Perry had a busy night punting the ball 7 times for an average of 31 yards. On defense, Hearst led with 18 tackles, 11 of those solo. Quan Rogers was next with 14 tackles, 8 of those being solo.

“In the playoffs, it is about finding a way to win, and in the end, we were able to find a way, even with the roller coaster moments,” Youngblood said.

The Ringgold Tigers come to The Brickyard after defeating Hart County 30-21 in Ringgold in a game where each team rolled up close to 375 yards of offense. The Tigers, who have never faced Thomson, only blemish this season was an 18-6 loss at Rockmart.

“They are 10-1 for a reason,” said Youngblood. “The 16 teams who advanced are the best in the state. With that being said, at the end of the night we have to make sure our score is higher than theirs.”

The Tigers will run the spread offense, and Youngblood said quarterback Mason Parker will spread the ball around runners and can also pass well. Kori Dumas, running back, was also mentioned as being tough to slow down.

“We have to do a good job of slowing their run down and also control their passing,” said Youngblood. “They are big, physical and fast – as are we – and we just have to figure out a way to move the ball and to bend and don’t break.”

The winner of Friday night’s game will advance to the third round to face either Appling County of Cherokee Bluff.

Tickets are $10, and will be on sale at the gate at 6 p.m. Friday night. Online, tickets can be purchased on GoFan https://gofan.co/app/school/GA6657 for $11.50 total.