Pace Academy head coach Chris Slade, an all-American in high school and college and a nine-year NFL veteran, has seen a lot of football in his time. So he was able to succinctly put into words what Thomson did to his team Friday night.
“They came in here and kicked our butts,” Slade said of the 38-10 victory for the Bulldogs, ranked No. 2 in Class AAAA. “Hey, if you play football long enough you’re going to get a butt kicking. Tonight, we got a butt kicking.”
And Thomson (4-0) did it the old fashioned way. For most of the night, the Bulldogs lined up with a tight end and an H-back on the field, in an I-formation pistol. The offensive line, led by senior Tavarius Jones, bullied the Knights up front as Thomson rolled up more than 400 yards rushing. Senior Mike Thomas led the way with 292 yards on 21 carries and three touchdowns, while sophomore Bubba Murray added 130 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown.
Pace (2-1), the top ranked team in Class AAA, moved the ball well on several occasions, but two costly fumbles inside the red zone cost the Knights big time. Deon Jackson led Pace with 153 yards on 18 carries.
While Pace linemen Jamaree Salyer and Andrew Thomas garner a lot of attention, Jones said he and his line mates – Jawon Brinkley, Kobe Walker, Juwuan Cheatham, Donovan Williams, Latorrence Jeffery, Will Roberts and AJ Grant – were prepared for trench warfare.
“We don’t worry about all those stars and ratings and stuff,” Jones said. “They put their pads on just like we do. We trust our coaches because they know what they’re talking about. We do what they tell us to do, and it works.”
Thomson head coach Rob Ridings thought his team would win the line of scrimmage.
“I thought we could go right at them,” Ridings said. “But what worried me was the way they came right at us early in the game. It seemed like we were still on the bus, mentally. But we settled in and got into a rhythm, and our backs got stronger as the game went on. That’s how we play. That’s who we are.”
The game was decided during a key stretch midway through the third quarter. Pace trailed 17-3 at half time but pulled to within 17-10 on the fourth play of its opening drive in the second half. On fourth-and-inches from their own 22-yard line, the Knights went for it and Jackson made the coaching staff look like geniuses when the sprinted 78 yards off left tackle into the end zone.
The Pace defense forced a three-and-out and when the Knights took possession, they drove inside Bulldog territory and looked poised to tie the game. But fullback Realus George was stripped after a tough 10-yard gain, turning the ball over to Thomson. On the third play of the Bulldogs’ ensuing possession, Murray darted over the right side bounced to the edge and sped 63 yards down the near sideline for a touchdown that pushed the Thomson lead to 24-10.
The Knights were forced to punt on their next possession, pinning Thomson at its 17-yard line. But on the first play from scrimmage, Thomas sprinted around the right side for an 83-yard touchdown and the lead grew to 31-10.
“You just have to forget about this one,” Slade said. “That’s a very good team. I take my hat off to them.”
Thomson 3 14 14 7 38
Pace Academy 3 0 7 0 10
P – Patrick Markwalter 45 fg
T – Dakota Gergen 41 fg
T – Mike Thomas 74 run (Gergen kick)
T – Trey Parker 27 pass from Mills Ridings (Gergen kick)
P – Deon Jackson 78 run (Markwalter kick)
T – Bubba Murray 63 run (Gergen kick)
T – Thomas 83 run (Gergen kick)
T – Thomas 2 run (Gergen kick)
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