The Toombs County Bulldogs’ 2017 regular season opener will be like no other opening night the program has ever experienced. For one, opening night is actually opening day because game one kicks off at 5 p.m. and this non-region match up against East Laurens will be played at Paulson Stadium- home of the Georgia Southern Eagles as a part of the Erk Russell Classic. The capacity of this Division 1 Stadium is 25,000 and the Bulldogs and the Falcons will be playing on Shaw Legion 41 synthetic turf.
With an afternoon kick, in the month of August in Southeast Georgia, weather conditions can be extreme. The projected game time temperature for the Bulldogs and Falcons is 86 degrees with a heat index of 94 and a relative humidity of 68%. At the end of the game the temperature is expected to be 83 with a heat index of 90.
On Wednesday the Bulldogs experienced a sweltering hot day as they practiced until 6:30 p.m. They ended the day with four 100 yard sprints. “It’s going to be hot, there is no doubt about it” Toombs County head coach Richie Marsh said. “That is something, to be honest, we welcome. We take pride in the work we put in this summer. We are going to have to overcome this mentally, but I think the mental toughness part of us will be a good thing.”
Last year Marsh opened up his Bulldog career, in the Pit, against East Laurens. The Bulldogs trailed 10-0. However, TCHS reeled off 24 straight points on the way to a 31-17 win. Keshawn Morgan ran for 244 yards on 28 carries and scored four touchdowns on runs 30, 8, 12 and 3 yards.
Keshawn didn’t play in the Hephzibah scrimmage, but he is ready to begin his senior season in the big stadium. “I think it is going to be a great experience for all of our guys to get out there and get some exposure,” Morgan said. “The stadium has a good atmosphere.”
Morgan, who is an Atlanta Journal-Constitution preseason AA All-State selection, has received offers from Georgia State. UAB, South Florida and Tulane. Keshawn last visited Paulson Stadium on December 3, 2016 and he watched Georgia Southern beat Troy 28-24 to wrap up the season.
Keshawn has some experience running on the fake grass. “When I went to the Nike Camp they had fake grass. It is pretty hard to run on it if you don’t have the right cleats.”
Last year Morgan led the Bulldogs in rushing with 1,697 yards and he scored 21 touchdowns including six at Telfair County.
East Laurens scrimmaged Treutlen on August 4 and the Falcons lost 12-7. The Vikings scored the game-winning touchdown at the end of the game. The Falcons went 1-9 last season. Their only victory was 30-22 at Montgomery County.
Chris Robinson enters his second season coaching the Falcons and his son, Bryce, is a senior linebacker and running back, who ran for 18-yards against the Dawgs last season on five carries. “They are talented on offense and at the running back position,” Marsh said. “The coaches son is at linebacker and he does a really good job chasing the football, they chase the ball on defense.”
In the Bulldogs’ scrimmage at Hephzibah the Rebels scored two touchdowns on a long run and a long pass. Last year in the Pit the Falcons scored on their second possession when the speedy Darius Peed escaped, on the first play, and ran 53-yards down his sideline and into the north end zone with 7:37 to play in the first quarter. Peed, now a junior, ran for 79-yards on six carries. However, he only played in five games and wound up with 143-yards.
“I don’t want us to give up those big plays on defense,” Marsh said. “I want to see us make great tackles, eyes through the thigh. I want to see our kids attack the runner.”
Tickets for the Erk Russell Classic are on sale this week at Toombs County High School, Ideal Pharmacy and Thriftway in Lyons. Tickets are $10 at those locations and they will be $15 at Paulson Stadium. In addition to the Bulldog game you also can stick around and watch Screven County take on Bluffton (South Carolina).
There will be tailgating in the parking lot prior to the game. Bulldog fans are encouraged to sit on the visitors side.