A second half scoring outage, missed assignments and turnovers led to the Burke County Bears taking the Region 3-AAAA Championship after defeating the Thomson Bulldogs 37-21 Friday night in the Bears Den.
Previously plagued by inability to score in the second half in seven of nine games, the Dogs saw Burke County score 23 unanswered points after the Dogs led 21-14 at the half in the Nov. 1 matchup. Thomson could have won the region had the Dogs held the Bears to 14-or less points.
The Bulldogs will host Richmond Academy Friday in the final game of the regular season. Playoff implications are large, as a win and Thomson will be the third seed and have the first playoff game at home. A loss and Thomson will be fourth seed and on the road in the playoffs.
“I thought we did things we needed to do, even though we didn’t play our best football,” said Thomson Head Coach Michael Youngblood of the effort against the Bears. “We probably played the worst first half I’ve seen since I have been here.”
The coach said a review of game film showed 143 missed assignments on offense.
“You can’t be successful making that many mistakes,” he said. “Defensively, it wasn’t much better. On both sides of the ball, we sat down with the kids and they knew what to do. But, in the game, they did something totally different.”
The Bulldogs scored on their second possession of the game. THS quarterback Tay Martin ran for 45 yards on first down, and facing a third-and-goal at the Bear 7, found an open Ashton Perry for the score.
Burke next scored on its own 7-yard play when back-up quarterback Michael Johnson ran the ball in and scored.
Thomson answered with a 13-play, six-minute drive. Kindarius Green and Martin took turns on the ground drive, with Martin scoring on a 7-yard run.
Burke returned the scoring favor on their next possession when Leon McGee went in from seven yards out.
With 40 seconds remaining in the first half, Martin found Snoop Williams for a 23-yard scoring pass and the Dogs took a 21-14 lead to halftime.
In the second half, it was Burke scoring after the Dogs couldn’t get a first down on their opening drive.
While Johnson scored on a 1-yard run, Green raced in to block the extra point, and the Bulldogs clung to a 1-point lead.
Early in the fourth quarter, Burke drove to the Thomson 25 before Johnson fumbled to the Dogs.
The Dogs faced a 4th-and-3 at the Thomson 44 and the Bulldogs tried a fake punt but a pitch was fumbled and the Bears recovered at the THS 26.
After a six-minute delay because of a first down chain malfunction Johnson found an open John Osborn for a 25-yard scoring play. A try for two failed, but Burke had the lead 26-21 with eight minutes left in the game.
Thomson drove to the Burke 39, but a fumble by Martin gave the Bears the ball at the Burke 47. A play later, Johnson broke loose for a 53-yard TD run. A 2-point conversion put the Bears up 34-21.
Next, the Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs after three penalties kept them on their own end of the field.
With just over a minute left in the game, Burke drove to the THS 7 and facing a fourth-and-five at the Thomson 7, Andrew Beckman hit a 25-yard field goal to make the margin 37-21.
Thomson had an opportunity to score, but was unable to gain a first down.
Of the muffed fake punt, Youngblood said felt the Dogs needed a boost in energy.
“At that moment in time, I became the worst coach in the world,” said Youngblood. “After that, we didn’t do well, and busted more assignments.”
Youngblood said that he did not mention the 15-point loss aspect to the team or coaches.
“I did not want that to be on anybody’s mind (about losing.) We went in there to win the football game.
Burke County totaled 443 yards of total offense to THS’ 298 yards. Martin led THS in rushing with 104 yards, and Williams led the Dogs with 118 yards receiving.
Youngblood said he has told the entire team what is on the line against Richmond Academy.
“The question to them was, do you want to go as a No. 2 seed, or a No. 4 seed,” he said. “No. 2 seed and we get to play at home. A No. 4 seed and we play on the road the entire time, regardless of how many games we win … We have to execute and we can’t have that many mistakes against anybody and expect to win.”
The Musketeers are 4-4 overall and 1-2 in region play.
“They have some good athletes, and their linebackers are really active,” said Youngblood. “They rotate two quarterbacks, with one being a good passer and the other one being really athletic. We have to execute and play the way we know we can.”
The Dog Walk will be at 5:30 p.m., next to The Brickyard on Springfield Street. It is also Senior Night with seniors being honored promptly at 6:45 p.m.