THOMSON — With touchdowns off a blocked punt and fumble return in a 35-second span of the fourth quarter, Thomson broke open a tight game and beat Jefferson County 26-13 in the opener for both teams at The Brickyard.
“It was good to get a win, that’s the biggest thing,” Thomson coach Rob Ridings said of his first game with the Bulldogs. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We made a ton of mistakes but everything that we made out here I think we can correct.”
Jake Brooks recovered a blocked punt by Will Roberts in the end zone with 10:19 left in the game to put the Bulldogs on top 19-7. Two plays later, Trey Parker plucked a Tyler Williams fumble out of the air and raced 35 yards for another score to make it 26-7 with 9:44 remaining.
Will Jordan threw touchdown passes of 32 and 40 yards for Jefferson County, but the Warriors turned the ball over four times and couldn’t muster any sustained rushing game against Thomson.
The Bulldogs (1-0) rallied from a 7-6 halftime deficit, taking the lead on their first offensive play of the third quarter when Billy Mance broke 42 yards for a touchdown to make it 13-7 just 30 seconds into the second half after the defense forced a Jefferson County fumble.
Three of the turnovers and the blocked punt led to all 26 Thomson points.
“I thought our defense played well,” Ridings said. “We were a little frustrated at halftime because we thought we played better than the score indicated.”
Both offenses got off to slow starts and failed to take advantage of opportunities in the first quarter.
Jefferson County recovered a fumble at the Thomson 39 on the second play of the game, but the Warriors turned the ball over on downs in four plays.
Thomson was set up by a Jalen McNair interception and return to the Jefferson County 15 on the next possession, but on third down at the 8 wildcat quarterback Trey Parker fumbled the shotgun snap and the Warriors recovered.
Jefferson County finally broke the ice late in the second quarter when a pair of Will Jordan screen passes covered 50 yards including the 32-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Juwan McCall. Evans Hodges point after made it 7-0.
Thomson kicker Cody Brown missed a 44-yard field goal with 1:40 left in the half, but the Bulldogs’ Will Roberts recovered a fumbled at the Warriors 15 on the ensuing play. Jefferson County’s defense held three downs inside the 4-yard-line, but the Bulldogs’ McNair eked a fourth-down rush from the 1 over the goal line with 2 seconds left. Brown’s PAT attempt sailed wide left leaving Jefferson County up 7-6 at the half.
Thomson’s wing-T accounted for 111 rushing yards in the first half and 261 on the night. Jefferson County had 89 total yards in the first half, 50 of them on the two-screen scoring drive.
The Bulldogs defense asserted itself in the second half. On the second play from scrimmage, Chris Tutt recovered a Warriors fumble at the 42 and on the next play Mance broke loose off right tackle for a 42-yard touchdown.
Mance led nine Thomson rushers with 105 yards on 14 carries.
The Bulldogs missed a pair of long field goals (44 and 36 yards) and two extra points on the night.
“You can’t come in and play a team like Thomson, turn the ball over (four) times, be pretty dysfunctional on offense and beat a team like Thomson,” said Jefferson County coach J.B. Arnold, whose Warriors beat Thomson for the first time in six career meetings last season when both teams were in Region 3-AAA.
“We were sloppy all night,” Arnold added. “Our defense played just out of this world. I give our defense a lot of credit. We’ve got to take care of the football and we’ve got to be able to function and execute at a very high level on offense and we’re not doing it right now.”