Burke County rallies past Thomson in rivalry classic

WAYNESBORO, Ga. – One of the area’s most highly-anticipated games of the high school season lived up to the billing Friday night.


Burke County turned to the arm and legs of Damari Kelly down the stretch to pull off the stunner. The fifth-ranked Bears scored 13 points in the second half to beat No. 2 Thomson 27-24 in the Bear Den in a rivalry classic.

Burke County moved to 9-0, including 4-0 in Region 3-AAAA, to secure the region’s top spot. The Bears moved to 18-16 all-time against Thomson and beat the Bulldogs for the first time since 2015. They also handed their rival just their fourth loss since the start of 2015.

Kelly, Burke County’s senior quarterback, led the Bears when it mattered most by driving them downfield late in the third quarter and scoring on a 2-yard run for a 21-17 lead. He again drove them midway through the fourth and scored on another 2-yard run for a 27-17 lead, which held the rest of the way.

Kelly rushed 12 times f0r 68 yards and two touchdowns, most of the yardage coming in the second half. Jaylen Odom totaled 100 rushing yards on just six carries while adding a key interception in the fourth quarter.

Thomson (7-1, 3-1) was held to just seven points in the second half on a late 11-yard touchdown run by Tyler Curry. Mills Ridings went 6 for 13 for 194 yards, while the talented rushing attack was held to 142 yards.

Mistakes cost Burke County scoring chances on its first two possessions despite driving with ease. Thomson took advantage by claiming a 7-0 lead on a Christian Tutt 9-yard touchdown run at 6:28 in the first quarter.

The Bears finally broke through early in the second when Odom found daylight up the middle for a 14-yard touchdown run and tie at 7.

The Bulldogs immediately hit back when Ridings found Tutt on a 43-yard pass, but the offense stalled deep in Bear territory thanks to three consecutive plays for loss, including a 10-yard sack on third down that caused a punt.

After Burke County went three-and-out, Thomson blocked the ensuing punt and took advantage of a short field to score on a 10-yard run by Tutt for a 14-7 lead. The Bears answered when Odom broke for a 60-yard run to set up a Bill Knight 1-yard touchdown run for a tie at 14 with 1:17 left in the half.

Thomson got back to the 10-yard line and managed a 27-yard field goal by Sam Derry as time expired for a 17-14 halftime lead.



Play of the game: Burke County’s Damari Kelly drove downfield and scored on a 2-yard run for a 21-17 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Star of the game: Kelly put the Bears on his back down the stretch, scoring two consecutive touchdowns to give them a lead they would hold.

Why Burke County won: The Bears got the necessary yardage down the stretch while holding Thomson’s offense in the second half.

Why Thomson lost: The Bulldogs failed to stop Burke County in the second half while struggling to keep up on offense.

Next: Richmond Academy at Thomson, 7:30 p.m., Friday. Hephzibah at Burke County, 7:30 p.m., Friday.



Burke Co.;0;14;7;6;-;27

First Quarter

T-Christian Tutt 9 run (Sam Derry kick), 6:28

Second Quarter

BC-Jaylen Odom 14 run (Jeremy Tinley kick), 9:24

T-Tutt 10 run (Derry kick), 3:10

BC-Bill Knight 1 run (Tinley kick), 1:17

T-Derry 27 field goal, 0:04

Third Quarter

BC-Damari Kelly 2 run (Tinley kick), 0:31

Fourth Quarter

BC-Kelly 2 run (kick failed), 4:40

T-Tyler Curry 11 run (Derry kick), 3:06


First Downs;15;18


Passing Yards;194;52






RUSHING-Thomson: Tyrek Braswell 9-37, Bubba Murray 6-22, Tyler Curry 5-48, Christian Tutt 8-33, Mills Ridings 4-2. Burke County: Jaylen Odom 6-100, Damari Kelly 12-68, Leon McGee 14-60, Cameron Holmes 7-25, Dymon Green 1-3, Marcelo Snelling 1-0, Juan’Ya Dove 1-3, Bill Knight 11-39.

PASSING-Thomson: Ridings 6-13-1 194, Jacorey Crawford 0-1. Burke County: Kelly 3-7 34, Knight 1-1 13, Dove 1-1 5.

RECEIVING-Thomson: Crawford 1-25, Tutt 1-43, Tyrese Jones 2-71, Braswell 1-5, Murray 1-50. Burke County: Odom 3-32, McGee 1-11, Dallas Rogers 1-9.



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