Lil’Vasco Winfrey blazes for a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Friday night’s Thomson Bulldog-Clarke County Gladiator game at Luther Welsh Field at The Brickyard turned into a see-saw battle with the visitors winning 48-41.

The nearly 4-hour game included close to a 75-minute lightning delay midway through the first quarter of the Friday the 13th game.

The loss to the Class 5-A Gladiators slid the No. 10-ranked Class AAAA Bulldogs to 2-1 on the season as they get ready to face Greater Atlanta Christian School at Spartan Field in Norcross Friday night. It will be Thomson’s first regular season game away from The Brickyard and will begin a four-game road schedule.

The Bulldogs scored on the opening kick-off when Lil’Vasco Winfrey ran the ball 94 yards for the score, taking 16 seconds off the clock.

The momentum swung a little the visitor’s way when Ben Cushman’s kick slid wide left.

The skies darkened and the wind picked up as the Gladiators drove to the Thomson 23, but a 37-yard Clarke County field goal attempt went wide right.

Thomson got the ball but couldn’t move effectively and punted moments before lightning was detected seven miles away, three miles inside the 10-mile guideline.

Team cleared the field and fans were encouraged to vacate the stands beginning at 7:51 p.m., and play resumed at 9:16 p.m. after some heavy rain and a lingering drizzle.

The Gladiators began at their 20 and several plays later, Isaac Ward found receiver Nono Mack open for a 64-yard TD pass. Christian Bryan added the point after and Clarke County clinged to a one-point lead.

Close to two minutes later, Snoop Williams ran the ball in from 35 yards out for the score followed by John Joiner booting the extra point.

Clarke scored early in the second quarter on a 13-yard pass from Ward to Mack. Bryan’s extra-point kick missed and the score was tied at 13-13.

The Gladiators sandwiched an 8-yard TD run by O’Brien Barnett between THS scores, when Tay Martin scored on a 20 yard touchdown run followed up by a 3-yard TD blast by Ky’Juan Cummings. The last gave THS a 27-20 lead with almost three minutes remaining in the first half.

The visitors scored with just under a minute left in the half on a 45-yard pass from Ward to Jordan Hill and the game was again tied at 27-27.

The Bulldogs held the Gladiators without a first down to begin the second half, and THS mounted a drive at the Dog 22 and built a 14-play drive that ended when Kindarius Green scored from four yards out to give the lead back to Thomson.

On Clarke’s next possession, it was the Ward to Mack combination for a 23 yard TD pass. The Bulldogs broke through and Rodney Lazenby got a hand up and blocked Bryan’s point-after, leaving THS with a single point lead, 34-33.

THS went up eight points after Cummings scored from five yards out and the Bulldogs led 41-33 at the end of the third quarter.

Early in the final quarter, the Gladiators scored on a 1-yard run by Barnett, and AJ Jewell tossed to Ward for the 2-point conversion to knot the score at 41.

With 3:33 left in the game, a handoff went awry between Martin and Dillon Hobbs and Clarke County returned the mistake to the Gladiator 45. Clarke took six plays before Barnett ran in for the score from the one and Bryan’s kick put Clarke up 48-41 with 1:04 left in the game.

Thomson moved from their own 26 to the Clarke 20 before time ran out.

The two teams combined for 1,097 yards of total offense with Thomson having 461 yards of rushing, and 130 yards of passing. The Gladiators rushed for 167 yards and passed for 339 more.

Martin rushed for 172 yards on 19 tries and passed for 130, completing 6-of-11 passes. Hobbs rushed 11 times for 100 yards, Williams had 92 yards on five rushes, and Cummings had 11 rushes for 80 yards.

Lazenby led the Bulldog defense with seven tackles, and Skylar Lewis, Cummings, and Keshon Germany each had six tackles.

“I felt like we ran up and down the field all night long…,” said Thomson head coach Michael Youngblood. “We had a few blunders and fumbled the ball away late, and it’s just one of those things that happen.”

The coach praised the Gladiators and said they forced the Bulldogs to double team in some areas, which allowed other players to have some success against Thomson.

“They kept us off balance on defense and we didn’t attack the way we did the first two games,” Youngblood said. “We slid back a little bit and that’s on me. We’ve got to do a better job of attacking even when a team tries to spread us out.”

The coach said that the Dogs continue seeing good football teams.

“Good football teams can expose things you are really not good at,” he said. “Clarke Central did not have a player going both ways and we have players playing both sides of the ball. Eventually, you wear out a little bit. I was proud of our kids, and they (Clarke Central) said they were fortunate to get out with a win.”

In facing the Spartans, the Bulldogs will come up against two tough tackles. They seem to be about 6-4, and 300 pounds, Youngblood said.

“They have a running back, Tyler Bride, who they will put at wild cat quarterback, run draws and other things with him,” said the coach. “They are a very solid football that lost to a private school – Lovett.”

The Spartans defeated Westminster 19-14, and won against visiting Prestonwood Christian School from Plano, Texas.

“They had an open week last Friday and so they’ve had basically two weeks to prepare for us,” said Youngblood. “We’ll have our work cut out for us. We have to find a way to do things offensively the way we did things Friday night and defensively, we’ve got to settle in and do better because other teams will try to do some of the things Clarke Central was successful with.”

THS head coach Michael Youngblood named players of the game for the THS-Clarke Central game: defense, Rodney Lazenby; offense, Snoop Williams; special teams, Lil’Vasco Winfrey; and scout team, Curtis Cummings.

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