The Thomson Bulldogs used the quick and exciting Friday night in the Bear Den to upset the Burke County Bears 30-23.
The win snapped an 8-year streak of losing at Burke and is the first time this year’s seniors have defeated the Bears. The rivalry win helped Thomson improve to 6-2 on the year, but more importantly, boost its Region 4-3A mark to 3-1.
“This is a big win for our seniors,” said Youngblood Friday night. A graduate of Burke County Youngblood was a defensive coordinator on Bear head man Eric Parker’s staff. “We put a game plan together and added a couple of wrinkles that helped us because we had some tendencies that we knew we were doing over in the past 5 or 6 games and we were able to break those tendencies tonight.”
Thomson deferred the kickoff and the Dog defense was tough and forced a three-and-out.
Then, the offense hit quick on THS first snap, with Tay Martin finding Snoop Williams open for a TD on a 55-yard pass play.
The two teams traded possessions until 4 seconds remained in the half and Conner Askew nailed a 21-yard field goal. This after a spiked pass from Martin halted the clock with seven ticks left.
Thomson got the ball in the second half and on the first play from scrimmage; Williams bolted 54 yards for a touchdown.
On the Bears’ next possession, they answered with a 38-yard passing score from Marshall Flowers to James Mable.
Next, after runs by Martin and Skyler Lewis, THS went ahead 23-7 on a 37-yard run by Lilvasco Winfrey.
The Bears followed with a 58-yard pass from Flowers to Daveion Henry. Jordan Franklin ran the 2-point conversion close to halfway through the third quarter.
Burke bore its teeth again with nearly 7 minutes remaining in the game on a 6-yard scoring run by Franklin, who also ran in the 2-point conversion to tie the score at 23.
Thomson then began at the THS 23 and converted a 4th-and-2 on way to a 13 play scoring drive that saw Martin dodge back and forth for the score with 1:14 left.
Burke returned the kick to their 40, but a holding call pushed the Bears back to their 15. A sack by the Bulldog defense and incomplete passes came before the Bears called a time out and then converted a 4th-and-14 to a first down at the THS 31.
With fans on opposing sides of the COVID-19 limited seating getting loud at the Bear Den, the Bears missed on a pass play with 16 seconds remaining. Flowers passed toward the end zone and after several seconds, the play was initially called incomplete, and then complete for the score.
However, a flag at the THS 31 in front of the Thomson sideline had to be adjudicated and was moved to near the THS 30. Another pass fell incomplete and another penalty came down to 3 seconds left with the ball backed up to the Thomson 40.
During a Bear timeout, the THS faithful pounded the bleachers and Bear fans screamed for their side. With the Bulldogs in a Hail Mary-wary; prevent defense, Flowers moved to pass but ended up in the paws of Thomson’s Keshon Germany as the clock went to zeroes.
On Sunday, Youngblood said the win was bittersweet.
“Bitter in that there is almost no chance of us being region champs,” he said. “Sweet in that we had not beaten Burke County in Burke Co since 2012 and these seniors had not defeated Burke County.”
Martin said he felt the Dogs wanted the win more.
“We lost three years straight and we wanted to win, we wanted the victory more, I think,” the junior said. “We wanted to get it for the seniors. We will enjoy this for tonight and the weekend some, but it’s back to the hard practices and work on Monday for Harlem.”
Jarvis Johnson, emotional and in tears post-game was joyous the Dogs had prevailed.
“I think the win will change this team of Bulldogs,” the senior said. “For the last several years we’ve had losses to them. This is my last year as a Bulldog, and this year was our team’s time, and tonight we were the top Dogs. Next on the list is Harlem.”
Ashton Perry said the game was wild.
“It was a crazy war, but it came to us wanted it more,” said the junior. “(The week of the Burke game) was the best week of practice we’ve had this year. But now, we all know there is more of the season to come.”
In the yardage battle, Burke County had the edge 390-370, with 301 yards of Thomson’s coming on the ground, while 195 of Burke’s came through the air.
Martin ended with 164 yards rushing, while Williams wound up with 116 all-purpose yards, with one run for 56 and three receptions for 62 yards.
Defensively, Germany had 10 tackles to lead THS. Skyler Lewis recorded 10, and Curtis Cummings and Cervuntes Felts each finished with 7.
The Bears had six fumbles – losing three, and two interceptions. Thomson had two fumbles, losing one, and one interception.
With the win came some tough news and things to work on. The Dogs will be without the services of Williams against Harlem. At press time, it was believed he had a pulled hamstring. Youngblood said he would be held out against Harlem in hopes the injury is not overly serious.
The Bulldogs from Harlem are 2-5 overall and 1-2 in Region 4-3A. Youngblood said the team us big up front on the defensive line, and that THS, offensively, will have to exploit their defense 3-3, and do what they have to do to keep the chains moving,
“On offense, they do have a tough running back in Cameron Garnett and a strong in quarterback in Jeremiah Ellis that can give problems,” Youngblood said adding that among other concerns is a good receiver in Cedric Cullars
On special teams, Youngblood said it crucial to continue on working on punting and coverage and making all the kicks.
“With the momentum shifts against Burke, there were chances where we could have folded, but we were resilient,” said Youngblood, saying the numbers game comes into play as to whether THS will finish 2nd-4th seed. “That’s how games go, and the Harlem win is critical because it solidifies us and I expect there to be momentum shifts in that game and the rest of the games this season. We have to adjust.”
Tickets for the THS-Harlem game at The Brickyard are available online at https://ths.mcduffie.k12.ga.us/ under the football ticket icon. Tickets are available for purchase at the high school office until 3:30 p.m. Thursday, and will be sold at the gate until the 1,500 attendee limit is met.