The Bulldogs (1-2) hung on to win 31-28 after a third-quarter brawl sparked by LaGrange caused Thomson to clear its bench as fights broke out all over the field.
Four Bulldogs were ejected – Felton Hatcher, Jalen McNair, Tripp Jones and KT Woods – while two Grangers were escorted off the field after the skirmish. The fight erupted when a LaGrange player knocked down a Thomson player after a kickoff return with four minutes remaining in the third quarter and Thomson leading 31-20.
“You hate for stuff like that to happen,” said Thomson head coach Milan Turner. “We’ll go back and look at it. Initially they waylaid one of our kids. I don’t know what got it going. Our kids shouldn’t have come off the bench but they saw their teammate get hit and ran out there to defend him. They’re teenagers so we tried to get out there as fast as we can to head them off.”
The GHSA will review the incident and typically hands out additional one-game suspensions to players ejected for fighting. Thomson travels to play Westminster-Atlanta next Friday.
Thomson had built a 31-12 lead in the second half thanks largely to a strong defensive effort in the first that led to 17 points off of LaGrange turnovers.
But the Grangers (0-3) drove 69 yards to cut the lead to 31-20 on a 7-yard Shevondre Maddox touchdown run followed by a two-point conversion pass with 4:03 left in the third quarter.
The fight broke out on the ensuing kickoff, with Maddox and Emmanuel Swanson getting ejected for the Grangers.
After the Bulldogs came up with no points on a 16-play drive that got as deep as the LaGrange 2 before a missed Ricky Martinez 26-yard field-goal attempt, things got tight at the end.
The Grangers drove 94 yards against Thomson’s ejection depleted defense, scoring on a Wynton Heard 12-yard scramble and a Heard to Khamani Barnes two-point conversion pass to make it 31-28 with 1:01 remaining.
The ensuing onside kick was recovered by LaGrange before it traveled 10 yards, and the Bulldogs were able to kneel and run the clock out. Both teams left the field without shaking hands to avoid any more confrontations.
“This late stuff they did, my whole secondary was depleted because of the melee out here,” Turner said. “So I’ve got kids out there, ninth graders, kids who don’t know what in the world to do trying to stop their offense. That’s tough. Hats off to the kids for getting that done.
“That’s what I hated about what happened because we did so many good things on both sides of the ball. You could really see, I think from week one to week two to now, you can see this football team growing up and getting better. That’s why I really hated for things to go the way that they went. I’m pleased with the win and happy about a lot of things we did. Disappointed in the melee that went on and that’s something we’ll address and continue to teach our kids. We’ve never had that happen before.”
Thomson intercepted three consecutive Zach Giddens passes to stake a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter and went ahead 17-0 after Quay Cummings returned a fumble 40 yards in the second.
Thomson also scored on a weaving 40-yard run by Leon Jones late in the first half to go up 24-6. Jones led the Bulldogs with 134 rushing yards.
“It was a big win and good to get a win,” Turner said. “That’s not who we are and we don’t condone that kind of behavior. We’ve just got to continue to grow up and work at it.”
It has been a struggle so far this season for the rebuilt Bulldogs. Thomson came in 0-2 with losses to Lakeside and St. Pius X, and the Bulldogs were in the process of being blown out by Burke County before the game was canceled because of thunderstorms in the area.
Defense has been a particular concern. Thomson gave up nearly 300 passing yards to Lakeside and more than 300 rushing to St. Pius X. Burke County had nearly amassed 300 offensive yards in the first quarter before the game was called.
Grangers also came in 0-2 with losses to Newnan and Harris County. LaGrange had a 27-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter against Harris before giving up 28 consecutive points.
The Grangers also yielded 28 consecutive second-half points to Newnan.