THOMSON — Thomson is embracing a next-man-up philosophy in its backfield with productive results so far.
The Bulldogs were faced with the daunting task of replacing All-State running back Mike Thomas, who totaled more than 2,300 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior last year. He was a key piece toward their 14-1 record and state championship appearance.
The hole was large, but a three-back rotation of Tyrek Braswell, Bubba Murray and Tyler Curry is filling it admirably.
“Any time you lose an All-State back like Mike, that’s a big loss right there,” Thomson coach Rob Ridings said. “We feel like we have three guys who can contribute and help us, and all three are getting better. Every week they’re improving, and they’re learning to be a total back like Mike.”
Braswell has been the leading rusher through a 2-0 start, recording 44 carries for 250 yards and three touchdowns. Murray has been right behind with 21 carries for 180 yards and three scores, and Curry showed his abilities this past Friday and has 82 yards and a score on 11 rushes.
The three are embracing their rushing rotation.
Braswell provides speed on the edge and breakaway ability, while Murray continues to be the punch complement that served Thomson well last year behind Thomas. Curry offers more of the same and stepped up with big yardage in a close win over Effingham County last week.
“That’s what we do, feed off each other,” Braswell said. “They’re more of the power backs than me. I’m more of a speed back. We’ve got a good rotation going. We know when each other is tired and the next one steps in.”
Ridings acknowledged his group has a run-first mentality. The team totaled nearly 4,500 rushing yards last season as clear evidence. But the coach also said it’s important that his Bulldogs keep defenses honest by working on the edge with their passing game.
Senior quarterback Mills Ridings has excelled at that, throwing at a 67 percent clip with more than 1,500 yards last season and doing more of the same through two games this year. He’s also stepped up as a team leader.
“We each have a connection when we’re in the game,” Mills Ridings said of his running backs. “We know what he’s going to do and I’m going to do. We have some chemistry going and that’s always good to have.”
No. 2 Thomson will need that connection when it faces No. 4 Jefferson tonight at The Brickyard at 7:30 p.m. It’s a rematch from last season when the Bulldogs beat the Dragons twice, including a state semifinal matchup that went to Thomson, 27-6.
Jefferson surely has revenge on the mind. The Dragons will turn to senior running back Colby Wood, who has 328 yards and six touchdowns through two games. Considered one of the top running backs in the state, Wood had more than 1,600 yards last year and more than 4,500 yards in his career.
It’s expected to be a physical game with two strong running attacks. The state will be watching, and Thomson will get the chance to show off its new running game in the spotlight.
“We wanted to play people at that level,” Rob Ridings said. “We got a heck of an opponent coming in here, no doubt. It’s quickly turned into a big-time rival for us. Their kids get excited about it. I think their community gets excited about it, and I think ours will do the same.”
Reach David Lee at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.