THOMSON, Ga. — A tortoise-and-the-hare scenario was taking shape in the Brickyard Friday night with Hephzibah stubbornly keeping pace with No. 2 Thomson through 16 competitive minutes.
Then the parable turned into reality with the hare escalating matters quickly.
Leading only 14-10 in the second quarter, a blocked punt touchdown ignited a flurry of 28 unanswered Thomson points to close the half as the Bulldogs raced to a 55-20 Region 3-AAAA victory.
Hephzibah (4-3, 1-1) had won four consecutive games since snapping a 15-game losing streak dating back to October 2015 with a victory over Westside on Sept. 1. The emboldened Rebels used a pair of sustained drives to keep pace with the Bulldogs’ early quick strikes to trail 14-10 in the second quarter and then forced a Thomson turnover on downs.
Thomson, however, turned the momentum when Xzavious Lewis blocked a Rebels punt high in the air, and teammate Artest Banks hauled in the rebound for a touchdown and 21-10 lead with 7:30 left in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs defense took over from there, limiting the Rebels to two first downs on its next seven possessions after yielding eight of the first two Hephzibah drives.
In a span of 1 minute, 43 seconds late in the half, Thomson added an 8-yard Tyrek Braswell touchdown run, a 65-yard Tyrese Jones punt return TD and a 33-yard Marcus Cade diving touchdown reception immediately after a Jacorey Crawford interception touchdown was called back by a penalty on the r eturn.
“They’re much improved from last year and it helped us to finally play somebody for two quarters that we had to find out how we were going to respond, and I thought we responded very well,” Thomson coach Rob Ridings said.
The Bulldogs (5-0, 1-0) picked right up on the third play of the second half with a 37-yard interception return touchdown by De’arious Jones and converted a fumble into another score to build the lead to 55-10.
“We’ve got to be able to keep out composure when we deal with adversity,” said Hephzibah coach William Harrell. “We had a couple of setbacks on special teams and defense, and when those things happen, we’ve got to keep our composure and be able to execute.”
Hephzibah added a late safety and 47-yard Rayquan Riley touchdown run against Thomson’s reserves.
Thomson has won 19 consecutive games against Hephizbah, with the Rebels’ only win in the series coming the first time the two schools met in 1978.
Braswell paced the Thomson offense with 80 rushing yards and two touchdowns as Bubba Murray sat out with the flu. Tyler Curry, whose receptions of 22 and 23 yards on the first two plays of the game set up a quick score, added a touchdown rushing on his lone carry before leaving the game with a twisted ankle.
Mills Ridings threw for 142 yards including the deep touchdown strike to Cade that ended the first half.
Riley led the Rebels with 137 rushing yards.
“We’re trying to make sure we play up to a level of expectation we set as a team,” Harrell said.