Ten days of spring football practice ended Friday night with a tie between the Thomson Bulldogs and Burke County Bears.
The 27-27 showdown at Luther Welsh Field at The Brickyard gave both teams a chance to see where they were going as they prepared for the 2019 football season. Another crucial aspect is where they have to go to improve the most before their seasons begin Aug. 23.
Now, the two head coaches, Eric Parker of the Bears and the Dogs’ Michael Youngblood will set about capitalizing on the good and erasing the bad. The two teams will battle in Waynesboro, Nov. 1, in what both coaches hope will be a tangle for the region championship.
Before the high school teams met, the middle schools met; Thomson McDuffie Middle School blanked the Bears 38-0. Its important lies in the tendency of making middle schools a main feeder for the varsity programs.
THS varsity won the first half 20-13, while the two JV squads were scoreless. In the 9th grade fourth quarter, Burke won 13-7, thanks to a last-second Hail Mary.
Friday night, celebrated almost exactly a year since Youngblood took over the program.
“It’s amazing what a year can do to a program when you are working to get it toward the way you want it,” said the coach. “It’s kind of tough when we came in here last year in May trying to get everything implemented and done that needs to be done. Now, the kids understand the expectations. They know what we want, what we are trying to accomplish. We did have some mistakes and we go back and look them over.”
Youngblood said the Dogs needed to do a better job of taking care of the football.
“We turned it over once and that’s one too many,” he said. “But, we caused a fumble for a touchdown; we had an interception and got a couple more fumbles, so we did a good job of forcing some turnovers at some critical moments.”
The Bulldogs will also look to turn up the heat on defense.
“I want us to be tougher on defense – a little more physical,” Youngblood underscored. “But, we have to tip our hat to Burke County a little bit. They have a good offensive team. They are going to be smoking, so we have to do a really, really good job making sure we balance things out. The things are fixable and we can correct those things.”
Thomson let the starters play until about six minutes remained in the first half.
“We took them out, and my biggest thing is I wanted to see everybody play because everybody has come out and worked hard for those nine days,” said the coach. “I definitely wanted them to get an opportunity to see playing time. It was a chance to get them on film in game situations. We had a couple of kids that really stood out that had not been out there. These kids will be able to help us in the fall.”
The Bulldogs begin team practices in late July, with full pads beginning Aug. 1, with the Dogs traveling down Interstate 20 to Oconee County to face the Warriors in a preseason scrimmage Aug. 16.
The regular season begins the next Friday night at Luther Welsh Field at The Brickyard when North Augusta High School, S.C. comes to town.