Sweet Water fights themselves, not Thomasville

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 28, 2004

THOMASVILLE — The Sweet Water Bulldogs had every intention of fighting for a win Friday night. The 1A classification didn’t matter against their 4A rival.

The only problem was that Sweet Water ended up fighting themselves all night — literally and figuratively — in a 33-15 loss to Thomasville.

Nothing provided a better example than the first three plays of Friday’s season opener. After taking the kick off, the Bulldog’s bulldog, sophomore running back Dominic Holt, busted through the Thomasville line to pick up a first down. On the second play from scrimmage, Sweet Water through an interception that was returned for a touchdown and resulted in a quick 8-0 lead for the home standing Tigers.

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Fast forward to the end of the first quarter. With 47 seconds left, and Sweet Water driving, the Bulldogs put the ball on the ground during a drive that was headed toward the Thomasville endzone.

The fumble recovery didn’t end with a pile-up on the Thomasville 38 yard line. It ended in the Sweet Water endzone, giving the Tigers a 14-0 lead.

With 6:14 left in the first half, and Thomasville’s depth catching up to the young Bulldogs, the Tigers manufactured a seemingly perfect drive that ended with a 12-yard sprint by Thomasville running back Marshall Knight.

Sweet Water finally got on the board with just more than five minutes left in the first half. Earlier in the second quarter, head coach Stacy Luker found a hole in the Thomasville defense. The discovery came in the form of a post pattern down the right side of the field. While the find led to an incomplete pass the first time around, the Bulldogs connected with 5:10 left in the half and scored on a 54-yard pass play.

The score was soon forgotten when the Bulldogs had a chance to pull within a touchdown late in the second quarter. After another 18-yard bolt by Holt into Thomasville territory, the Bulldogs looked lost of the field. They called a fullback dive and picked up just a yard on first down with less than two minutes left in the half. On the next down, they stopped the clock with an incomplete pass, allowing the offense to set up a third-and-9 play. Instead, the Bulldogs couldn’t get sorted offensively and were forced to burn a timeout, further adding to the frustration of their first-game mistakes.

Sweet Water turned the ball over to Thomasville with 58 seconds on the clock, and quarterback Daril Jackson led the Tigers 68 yards, culminating the hurry-up offense with a 16-yard pass into the endzone to give Thomasville a 27-6 lead at the break.

The continuous fight Sweet Water waged against itself didn’t end at halftime either. About three minutes before the two teams took the field for the final two quarters, to fans in the Bulldog stands landed lefts and rights with each other until more than a dozen Thomasville police officers and Clarke County Sheriff’s deputies responded. Two fans were carted off in handcuffs just as the Bulldogs took the field in the second half.

For a moment, it looked like the fight inside the actual football players would begin to pay off.

After receiving the kick-off, Thomasville immediately fumbled the ball away to Sweet Water, deep in Tiger territory.

On their first play of the drive, Holt broke through the Thomasville defensive line and picked up 10 yards.

On the second play, Sweet Water called a fade to the right side of the field and threw an interception.

That play all but sunk the Bulldogs’ chance to beat Thomasville for the first time in more than a decade. The Tigers meticulously chewed the clock in the third quarter and ended a 7-minute dive when tight end Matthew Sparks found himself all alone in the corner of the end zone.

The PAT failed, but Thomasville led 33-6 with just a quarter remaining.

Sweet Water didn’t quit and scored nine more points in the final quarter. They outscored Thomasville 9-6 in the second half, proving that their fight didn’t go away after the chances of an upset win did.

Sweet Water (0-1) hosts Akron next Friday.