THOMASVILLE, Ga. - The Laney Wildcats entered their second round Class AAA playoff game against the Thomasville Bulldogs with dangerous speed.
It was on display Friday night.
The Wildcats burnt the Bulldogs with short, precision passes and constant pressure from their defense to win 23-0.
"We lived to play another day," a smiling Eric Parker, head coach of the Wildcats, said. "I'm just proud of these kids."
Receiver Curtis Sapp was a major contributor on the Wildcats' first scoring drive in the second quarter. Faced with fourth-and-6 from the Bulldogs'33-yard line, Laney quarterback Dominique Walker fired a strike to Sapp on a slant at the 20 to convert the first down.
That led to a three-yard plunge into the end zone by fullback William Scott, giving the Wildcats the early lead.
Laney scored again right before half. Starting from their own-47 yard line, the Wildcats drove down the field behind a couple of big runs from Kendrick Gonder and key passes to Sapp and Robert Dunn. On second-and-goal at the 6, Walker lofted the ball into the left corner of the end zone to Sapp, who had beaten the Bulldogs' defender.
It was the first of two touchdown catches for Sapp, who finished with eight receptions for 116 yards.
"He came through tonight and played well," Parker said.
The Bulldogs appeared to give the Wildcats' receivers a lot of room, respecting their blazing speed, not wanting to give up the big plays that hurt Appling County a week ago.
"They had good speed," Welch said.
Thomasville struggled to move the ball in the first half and hurt itself with costly turnovers.
Following Laney's initial touchdown, Bulldogs quarterback Clay Hodges lofted a pass to Tonk Felton, but it sailed just out of his reach and into the arms of the Wildcats' defender.
The Bulldogs' offense received a devastating blow at halftime, when Hodges was ruled out for the second half. During the first half, Hodges scrambled for a first down, but did not get down. A Wildcat's defender swooped in and smacked Hodges to the ground. He did play the rest of the half, but was ruled to have a concussion at halftime.
The Bulldogs were forced to go with wide receiver Tonk Felton at quarterback. Though he did have some success moving the offense, the team was not the same considering its best playmaker was now behind center.
"It changed it a pretty good bit," Welch said.
But Thomasville's offense was plagued by turnovers the whole game. Running back Martin Moore fumbled on the Bulldogs' first drive of the second half.
On their last drive of the game, Felton threw an interception in the end zone, as the Bulldogs tried to avoid the shutout.
It was the second straight shutout for the Laney defense. Last week the Wildcats blanked Appling County, 56-0.
"In a playoff game, you can't have turnovers," Welch said. "We played a good football team, there's no two ways about it."