THOMSON - Thomas County Central quarterback Erik Walden said he was only at 85 percent Friday night for the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
Thomson would have hated to see him at full speed. Playing with a sprained right knee, the senior ran over the Bulldogs in the Yellow Jackets' 24-14 victory at the Brickyard.
Walden accounted for 169 yards rushing as Thomas County Central ended Thomson's season in a rematch of last year's state title game.
"My knee is not 100 percent, but it feels great right now," Walden said. "We got some revenge for last year."
After scoring two touchdowns in the third quarter for a 14-10 lead, Thomson (10-2) couldn't stop the Yellow Jackets (11-1), who scored touchdowns on back-to-back possessions.
Walden rushed 13 times on the two drives, including a 20-yard touchdown run on an option that put his team up for good, 17-14, with 10:14 remaining in the game.
On the next drive, Walden carried six times for 52 yards - all on option plays - before tailback Moses Cochran ran for a 4-yard touchdown with 4:36 left.
Cochran had 139 yards on 21 carries.
"It's tough to lose, especially when you got back into the ball game," said Thomson coach Luther Welsh, who lost his starting quarterback and fullback with injuries. "We had a chance to go ahead and win, but we just couldn't hold them."
Down 10-0 at the half, Thomson got back in it thanks to a dazzling display by backup fullback Ricky Hill, the Bulldogs' fourth-leading rusher entering the game.
Hill rushed for 178 yards on eight carries, and his scoring runs of 78 and 35 yards gave the Bulldogs the lead in the third quarter. Hill, however, didn't touch the ball in the fourth quarter.'
"He was tired," Welsh said. "He was playing both ways, and he had a hurt ankle."
An emotional Hill said he didn't know why he didn't get any more carries.
"I don't know what to say," he said. "I thought I was going to get it, but I just didn't."
The Yellow Jackets drove to the Bulldogs' 5-yard line on their first drive, but two penalties pushed them back to the 14-yard line and they had to settle for a 32-yard field goal.'
Thomas County Central got into the end zone on its first drive of the second quarter, driving 80 yards on 12 running plays. Walden had a 22-yard run on an option play, then he bulled into the end zone eight plays later for a 5-yard touchdown run that gave the Yellow Jackets a comfortable 10-0 lead.
Thomson did a serviceable job in the first half of stopping Walden, who had 61 yards on eight carries before halftime. But he took over in the second half, running option left and right to torture the Bulldogs.
"I don't think we missed assignments; we just missed tackles," Welsh said.
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.