The coaching staff and fans of the Thomson Bulldogs got an early look at the 2002 edition of the team this past Friday night during a scrimmage game against the Screven County Gamecocks in Sylvania.
Luther Welch: Legendary Coach is in his fourth year of his second tenure with the Bulldogs.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The end result, however, was not pleasant for the Bulldogs, as the Gamecocks defeated THS 14-7.
Thomson has been plagued with numerous injuries during the pre-season, and for this scrimmage, the squad was missing four starters due to injuries.
"We're hurting and we're in trouble," said a worried Thomson High Coach Luther Welsh. "We have experienced more injuries this year than I have ever had at one time in my entire career.
"Our offensive line is too young and real inexperienced. We are down to playing tenth graders in our right guard and tackle positions, and in one tackle spot, were are at a second level tenth grader. These guys are doing their best to get adapted to our system in a very short time. They will do alright, but they must get some experience under their belts."
The trio of offensive line players for the Bulldogs who are out due to injuries are senior right tackle Montrell Neal, junior guard Demarco Drake and sophomore tackle Scott Jenkins.
Neal, who is a big man for the Bulldogs on the line at close to 300 lbs., is out due to a lateral ligament strain. Drake is suffering from muscle damage and Jenkins is treating a hernia.
"What is hurting us the most right now is that all these players line up on the same side of the football," Welsh said. "The right side of the line of scrimmage is very weak at the moment."
Defensively for the Bulldogs, nose guard Jemarcus Burnett is out due to a broken foot.
"We started our really strong on defense this year, and we are still pretty descent even though we have Burnett's injury," Welsh said.
Thomson's wing-T offense will again be led this year by senior quarterback Deon Palmer. He was the second leading rusher for the Bulldogs last season with 1009 yards on 129 carries and 15 touchdowns. Palmer averaged 7.8 yards per carry, 77.6 yards per game, and finished the year with a season-high 142 yards gained in one contest.
The backfield duties behind Palmer will be alternated between several players, which makes Thomson's wing-T very unique.
Senior Demarco McNair will be the leader in the backfield again this season for Thomson. During the 2001 campaign, McNair was the team's leading rusher with 1320 yards on 228 carries and 19 touchdowns. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry and 101.5 yards per game. His biggest game of the season was for a total of 170 yards.
Other players who will have a big job to do in the backfield are Aaron Johnson, Ricky Hill, Danny Warren, Bromecus Hordens and Demarcus Wilson. Warren and Hill finished the 2001 season as the third and fourth leading rushers respectively for Thomson. Warren amassed 851 yards on 115 carries while scoring six touchdowns. He averaged 7.4 yards per carry, 65.5 yards per game, and had a top-game of 156 yards on the ground. Hill finished the season with 572 yards on 60 carries and three touchdowns. He averaged 9.5 yards per carry, 44 yards per game, and had a season-high of 129 yards in one game. The 2002 Thomson Bulldogs have a 69-player roster that includes 27 seniors, 18 juniors and 24 sophomores.
In the scrimmage last week against Screven County, sophomore runningback Clifton Belton scored Thomson's lone score on a 40-yard sweep.
The Bulldogs open their regular season up this Friday night on the road against the Hart County Bulldogs.
"Hart County lost key players last year just like we did. They are very similar to us," Welsh said. "They run an I-formation offense, where they throw the ball a lot from a pro and spread look."
"Defensively, Hart County operates out of a 4-3 look. Their defense features an outstanding middle linebacker, who is the best I have ever seen. His speed and strength has made him a No.1 college prospect," Welsh added.
Hart County is a member of Class AAA, in which its region also includes Elbert County, Stephens County, Franklin County, Logansville and Eastside Covington.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.