Chris Jordan rushed for 197 yards and four touchdowns and the Thomson defense forced two huge turnovers in the second half to rally the No. 2 Bulldogs to a 28-14 victory over No. 3 Washington County in a sold-out House of Pain.
“Defensively the second half, no points; offensively, the ground game was huge,” said Thomson head coach Milan Turner of the formula that keeps his Bulldogs atop the Region 3-AAA standings.
For the ninth time in as many games, Thomson fell behind in the first half and Washington County was driving to extend a 14-7 lead on the first possession of the third quarter in front of a packed crowd.
Golden Hawks quarterback William Walker hit D.J. Sanders for a 25-yard strike to the Bulldogs 10, but a hit from William Bussey dislodged the ball and Torrie Battle recovered the fumble at the 9.
Thomson capitalized with consecutive plays of 25, 15 and 55 yards, the last a breakaway run by Jordan to tie the game at 14-14.
“That was a huge turnaround,” said Turner. “They were driving the football. We come up make a big hit and get a turnover. The thing is good teams capitalize on those opportunities.”
Thomson took the lead on a nine-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter. Jordan scored from 7 yards to make it 21-14 with 5:52 remaining.
On the next possession, Walker scrambled for first-down yardage on third-and-7, but he lost the football and Bussey recovered for the Bulldogs at the WACO 37.
Three plays later, Jordan plowed up the middle, shedding several tacklers for a 28-yard score and a 28-14 lead with 3:38 left.
“It is what it is,” said WACO head coach Joel Ingram. “We squandered opportunities and didn’t contribute on offense and couldn’t stop the nose bleed on defense when we needed to.”
WACO drove to the Thomson 8 trying to spark a late rally, but three consecutive incompletions in the end zone turned the ball over on downs and the Bulldogs ran out the clock.
“We made some mistakes, but keep it in mind that we still have a lot to play for,” Ingram told his players after the tough defeat. “If we win next week we still finish No. 2 in the region. Take your hats off to (Thomson). They are a fine football team and I have nothing but respect for them.”
The anticipation of Friday’s showdown of the Nos. 2 and 3 teams in the state had the House of Pain packed early. The Bulldogs climbed in the polls behind close but impressive wins against well-regarded foes including Class AAAA No. 3 Burke County, Class AAA No. 5 St. Pius X and Class AA No. 8 Greater Atlanta Christian.
Washington County lacked the quality of wins but made up for it with domination, winning five of its games by at least 23 points.
Walker – who came into the game with 1,070 passing and 648 rushing yards – piled up 335 total yards in Friday’s losing effort. Until the second half, it looked like it would be Walker’s night as Washington County scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter on an 8-yard Walker run and a 19-yard Walker pass to Deonte Latimer.
The Bulldogs looked poised to answer right before the half, but after driving to the Golden Hawks 9 the drive stalled with three consecutive Chris Tutt incompletions in the end zone. Brandon Radford’s 26-yard field goal attempt sailed just wide of the uprights with 13 seconds left to leave it 14-7 WACO at the half.
Thomson scored first on a 49-yard march capped by a 10-yard touchdown run by Jordan with 4:05 left in the first quarter.
A victory in two weeks against Jefferson County would earn Thomson its 22nd GHSA region title and first since 2007. The Bulldogs lead the series against WACO 27-10 with back-to-back thrillers in the House of Pain including last year’s double overtime victory.