THOMSON, Ga. - If Thomson is going to advance to the Georgia Dome, the Bulldogs are going to have to win on the road in the Class AAAA quarterfinals.
After a 51-35 win over No. 8 Ware County Friday night, Thomson will play at No. 7 Rome. The Wolves (11-1), a team that hasn't lost since Sep. 27, have won four games by seven points or less this season.
Last year, Thomson lost at Dalton in the third round of the state playoffs.
"I think last year was a learning experience for us," Thomson coach Luther Welsh said. "We want to overcome what we didn't accomplish last year."
Class AAAA No. 1 Thomson is trying to win its first state title in 17 years. Welsh led the Bulldogs to consecutive Class AAA championships in 1984 and 1985.
The Bulldogs cleared their biggest hurdle Friday night, when they defeated a pass-happy Ware County team.
Thomson's defense saw something new in the No. 8-ranked Gators offense, which lined up in four- and five-receiver sets. Ware County junior quarterback Steve Daniels completed 20 of 44 pass attempts for 325 yards and five touchdowns.
Daniels completed his first seven passes and led Ware County to touchdowns on their first two possessions. The Gators led 14-7 in the first quarter.
But as good as Ware County's offense was, Thomson's offense was better. The Bulldogs gained 447 rushing yards on 59 carries. Seniors Deon Palmer and Demarco McNair accounted for all seven of Thomson's touchdowns with Palmer rushing 21 times for 260 yards and McNair adding 106 yards on 22 carries.
The game was tied at 21 late in the first half. But the Bulldogs went 44 yards in eight plays to set up a 29-yard field goal by Aaron Johnson with 7.1 seconds remaining in the first half.
Thomson (12-0) finally broke the game open midway through the second half. Palmer scored on runs of 10 and 5 to put the Bulldogs up 38-21. McNair added a 2-yard touchdown run.
Thomson outscored Ware County 20-0 the first 20 minutes of the second half to secure the win.
"This is great for us because this was a tough team; they came out of a tough region," Welsh said. "Every time you take a step up, you face a higher-caliber football team."
McNair said: "They had a good football team, offense and defense. We just had to keep our focus. We couldn't worry about what they were doing."
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