THOMSON, Ga. - Thomson Mayor Bob Knox Jr. hadn't seen anything like it in 17 years - the last time the Thomson High School Bulldogs were state champions.
"I don't know that I've seen this much spirit in Thomson since then," he said, standing amid the celebration of Thomson's 42-27 win over Thomas County Central for the Class AAAA championship. "This is a tribute to Coach (Luther) Welsh and these players."
The spirit was along Main Street and Washington Road, where businesses showed their support with signs. It was in the stands, where fans were armed with customized fly swatters - a reference to Thomas County Central mascot, the Yellow Jackets. It was in the fireworks, paid for by local businesses, booster clubs and residents.
"There's been a lot of hard work on a lot of people's part," said Thomson high School Principal Bill Reese. "I don't know of any other event that could bring our county any closer together."
And the Bulldogs did their part. Leading Thomson to the title was running back Demarco McNair (22 carries, 164 yards, two touchdowns) and Deon Palmer (17 carries, 139 yards, two scores). In all, the Bulldogs gained 453 yards on the ground.
"We saved the best for the last game," Palmer said. "We're the No. 1 team in the state, and nobody can say anything else about it."
Thomson took it to Thomas County Central early, amassing more than 300 yards of total offense in the first half.
"Our defense got after us this week," said Palmer, who also completed 4-of-6 passes for 59 yards. "They've been helping us out the last couple weeks. We had to keep them off the field."
After the game, Welsh was swarmed by fans and the media. He credited his players, calling his third state title "the best one yet."
"It feels great," he said. "It's been a long time for me, and for Thomson. You can't ask for anything better."
And he's not ready to quit now.
"Sure, this would be a great time to go out," he said after the game. "But I enjoy what I do too much."
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