The coach who resurrected the Toombs County High School football program in the mid 90’s is 20 years later going to be on the opposing sideline against the Bulldogs. Mark Stoud, who made his name in the coaching business by winning 120 games at TCHS while losing only 60 extended his reputation for excellence at Calvary by winning 67 more games and taking the Cavaliers to the Class A Private School State Championship Game in 2013, is now back in the area at Swainsboro, his alma mater, and on November 4 his Tigers will play host to Toombs County in a Region 2 game with playoff seeding implications involved. The winner goes to the GHSA State Tournament seeded third, the loser will be fourth. However, if Swainsboro does lose the Tigers will need some help from Vidalia. If the Indians defeat Bryan County, in Pembroke, the Tigers will be in the playoffs no matter what happens Friday. If Bryan County pulls off the upset the Tigers have to beat Toombs to make the post season.
On Tuesday, early in the afternoon, Stroud was concentrating on getting his Tigers ready for the big game. “You get so consumed with preparing for the game itself and that kind of takes your attention away from those kind of things right now early in the week.” Stroud said. “But, as it draws closer and closer it will be kind of strange. Toombs is very much like home for me. I have a lot of great friends there, had a lot of great times there and it’s going to be strange because I love Toombs County.”
Coach Stroud says it might be easier to coach this first game against the Bulldogs in Swainsboro and not in the Pit on the opponents sideline. “Yea, I guess it would make it a little stranger really having coached so many games there on the home side with the home crowd and all that excitement. So, that would definitely be a little different. I guess we are fortunate to play here and that will take away from that. I’m sure Toombs will bring a great contingent like they always do and they will be excited.”
Stroud, who left the Toombs football program after the 2007 season, has received continuing support from many Bulldog fans during his eight season run at Calvary. But, what happens now that he is coaching in the same region as the Bulldogs? “I hope they will support us to some degree, but I’m sure not on Friday night. Once it gets going it will just be a game, a game of importance for both teams. We are trying to scratch our way in here (the playoffs) at the end and Toombs has had a solid season and they are kind of in.”
The Bulldogs enter the game with a 6-3 record and a 4-2 mark in the region. Swainsboro is 3-6 and 3-3. The Tigers opened up the season playing four straight super quality teams and they lost all four. The Tigers began with a 38-6 home loss to now 7-2 Jackson. The Red Devils are playing host to Peach County on Friday and on the line for both teams, which are 5-0 in Region 4 AAA, is a region championship.
Next the Tigers played at rival ECI and they lost 62-27. ECI is 8-0 and a serious contender to make it to the Georgia Dome for the Class A Public School Championship Game. Swainsboro’s third game was in the Shamrock Bowl and the Tigers showed a lot of improvement in a 34-27 loss. Dublin is 7-2 overall and locked into a playoff position as a four seed out of Region 3 AA.
The Tigers ended this four game gauntlet with a trip to Savannah and a 47-8 loss to Benedictine. The Cadets are 9-0 and they are the number one team in AA. Stroud says during this stretch he stressed improving as a team. “We’ve been trying very hard to get our kids to focus on playing the game correctly, with great effort, with great discipline and toughness and unity. That’s all we wanted to focus on through the stretch was doing it right”
After the Tigers wrapped up a 40-17 home win over Jeff Davis, Stroud began his preparations for the Bulldogs. “I think they are a physical football team. I think they are good up front which makes you immediately good at the high school level or any level. They just take the ball and you have to stop the running game. If you can’t stop it you’ve got not shot. The task for us defensively is to play toe-to-toe with them. Be physical and tough and hard nosed and get some stops. The quarterback (Dalton McBride) is a good player. They have a nice package offensively. They are a power football team, but they do have the ability to get to the perimeter with the quarterback and their passing game.”
Friday’s head coaches have never met on the field although they almost encountered one another in 2007. Had Savannah Christian not overcome an 18-0 Bulldog lead in the first round of the state playoffs with a run of 35 straight points, Toombs would have advanced to the second round and a November 23 meeting with Richie Marsh’s Thomasville Bulldogs in Thomasville. Coach Marsh’s team defeated Savannah Christian 20-14 prior to dropping a close game in the quarterfinals to Lovett 20-14 in Thomasville.
The two coaches have gotten to know each other. “I have, he seems like a real quality guy,” Stroud said. “Watching them on film it’s obvious those guys are doing a really good job coaching. Everything I hear from community people is they are really high on him. I think he is a great fit for Toombs County. He is a high character guy and the folks love him I’m sure.”
Mark Stroud reminisces on his Bulldog years on Y-101 Radio
Mark Stroud talked to former players, including NFL veteran Travares Tillman, and he took phone calls from assistant coaches and Bulldog fans who thanked him for his contributions to the community on January 28, 2008. Listen to both hours
Technically this won’t be the first time that Stroud has coached against the Dawgs. In 2014 Toombs and Calvary met in a passing league game in of all places- Vidalia.
Toombs vs. Calvary
The last time the Bulldog played in Swainsboro was game 10 of the 2008 regular season and they needed a win to go to the playoffs.
“No Quit” Dawgs are going to the playoffs
I-Dawgs outscore throwing Tigers
The Toombs County Bulldogs trailed Swainsboro 16-7 at half and 24-14 with 4:28 to play in the third quarter. However, the “No Quit” Dawgs rallied and scored 22 fourth quarter points in a 43-30 win which secured third place in Region 3 and a trip to the playoffs. Senior tailback Demery Hawkins scored three touchdowns and a two-point conversion and junior tailback Tory Lamb scored twice including the go-ahead TD with 4:55 to play. The Bulldogs finally put the game on ice with an A.J. Fletcher interception and a long touchdown run by Lonzo Skinner.
Swainsboro junior quarterback Malcolm Eady threw two touchdown passes and ran for two scores. Practice slideshow
Y-101 game story
Y-101 play-by-play highlights
Y-101 Locker Room Show