WASHINGTON, Ga. - Most normal 74-year-old men have long since settled into retirement, passing the days tinkering around the house. But Thomson head coach Luther Welsh is far from normal.
After more than 40 years of coaching, he made history Friday night against the Bulldogs' oldest rival. A 40-16 win over Washington-Wilkes at Tiger Stadium gave Welsh his 300th career victory as a high school coach.
The milestone that focused so much attention on his record meant little to Welsh, though.
"It feels good, but the most important record is being 2-0 at this time of the year," Welsh said after the game.
The players showed more excitement about getting the win for the old coach than he did.
"It's good to know I took a part in helping him reach that milestone," said junior offensive lineman Bob Brunson. "I'm proud of him. I wouldn't want any other head coach. I think I can speak for everybody else out here, everybody loves him. He's a great coach, and we're all proud of him."
John Barnett, Welsh's defensive coordinator for his entire stint at Thomson, knows just what 300 wins means. More than that, he was glad to work with Welsh for 150 wins at Thomson in less than 15 seasons.
"It's priceless," he said. "You've seen the commercials. It's priceless."
At halftime, though, the score haunted the Bulldogs. They lost to the Tigers at the Brickyard 10-0 last season, and the scoreboard showed just that as both teams headed to the locker room.
Thomson mustered only 35 total yards of offense and one first down in the first half while Washington-Wilkes gained 101 yards on the ground and 10 through the air.
The Tigers' first score came on a 36-yard field goal with 7:49 remaining in the first quarter after a flubbed Bulldogs punt gave them the ball on Thomson's 36.
Washington-Wilkes' running backs scrapped their way down to the Thomson 41 with just under a minute left before Kelmetrus Wylie split the Bulldogs defense for a touchdown with 38 seconds left.
Thomson came back from halftime with renewed fire. The defense forced five fumbles, and the Bulldog offense capitalized on them, scoring 33 unanswered points through the third and into the fourth quarter.
The comeback was no surprise to Welsh and the rest of the Thomson staff.
"I really thought that our people would come back in the second half," Welsh said. "You know we have the talent. I just thought that we could get them straightened out at halftime, talk to them a little bit, and they'd come back and do what they were supposed to do."
THOMSON 40, WASHINGTON-WILKES 16
PLAY OF THE GAME: Justin Samuels recovered a fumble on the Tigers' 8. It led to Thomson's first lead, which they held on to for the rest of the night.
WHY THOMSON WON: Taking advantage of Washington-Wilkes' turnovers. The Bulldogs recovered five in the second half, all of which led to scores.
WHY WASHINGTON-WILKES LOST: Its players couldn't keep up with Thomson, having to play both sides of the ball.
STAR OF THE GAME: Luther Welsh, who recorded his 300th career win.
WHAT'S NEXT: Jefferson County at Thomson next week. Washington-Wilkes at Lincoln County next week.
300 AND COUNTING
Luther Welsh reached the 300-win milestone Friday night. A look at his career:
OVERALL RECORD: 300-161-5
THOMSON RECORD: 150-30-1
GAMES COACHED: 466 (Georgia state record)
STATE TITLES AT THOMSON: 1984, 1985, 2002
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