THOMSON — With Region 3-AAA shrinking to the smallest in the state, Thomson’s schedule got a lot bigger and tougher.
The Bulldogs have only four region games against established programs Washington County, Jefferson County, Swainsboro and Dodge County, which meant filling out a 10-game schedule required some tough choices.
Eight of the 10 teams on Thomson’s schedule advanced to the second round or further in last year’s GHSA playoffs.
“Our schedule is ranked No. 1 in Class AAA,” second-year head coach Milan Turner said. “We picked up six nonregion games and they’re the who’s who of Georgia high school football. Part of that was having trouble finding teams to play six games. We’re going to be challenged early and often, but every Friday night it’s going to make for some great football.”
The Bulldogs were eliminated in the first round of the 2011 playoffs, and 15 of those starters on both side of the football are gone including two prominent college signees – quarterback Joshua Jones and nose guard John Atkins.
“Those were two really good players who went on to play college football and they will be missed,” Turner said. “We’ve got some new faces but kids have worked really hard all spring and summer. I feel good about our work ethic.”
Sophomore Chris Tutt, a backup last season, takes over for Jones at quarterback.
“He’s got a lot of ability, he’s just young,” Turner said. “We have to understand it’s a learning experience for him and each week he’s going to get better.”
Torrie Battle returns as a key weapon both offensively and as a return specialist. William Bussey will be a leading two-way performer at running back and free safety.
Linebacker Cam Garnett and defensive end Bernard Dawson also return as starters while Kendall Reynolds and Patrick Taylor will play key roles on the offensive line.
For Turner, it’s all about continuing to build the program to suit his hard-nosed, physical brand of football.
“At Thomson there was great tradition and some great things already established which was a huge plus coming into a program,” he said after going 9-2 in his first year at the Bulldogs helm. “But obviously there are things with a new coaching staff that we hang our hat on and feel are important for us and that just takes time.
“There’s a tremendous cost to it that requires a lot of commitment and hard work by kids to be a part of the program. It just takes time to establish that culture even in a program like Thomson but we’re making strides every day. Year two is a little better than year one.”