In recent years the Toombs County Bulldogs have played host to other teams which have also been nicknamed Bulldogs. Most recently the Beach Bulldogs made two straight visits to Booster Stadium. In 2014 Toombs County beat Beach 20-12 and the next season the visitors, from the Coastal Empire, took the rematch 18-7. In 2010 TCHS outscored the ECI Bulldogs 26-15 in a scrimmage game and everybody remembers the 2006 shootout between those same two teams won by ECI 56-40.
On Friday night another group of Bulldogs will travel down Highway 15 from Sparta on a 98 mile trip to the Pit. The 1-0 Hancock Central Bulldogs will be playing the (1-0) Toombs County Bulldogs for the very first time. Hancock plays in Region 7-A Division B with Lincoln County, Aquinas, Washington-Wilkes, Georgia Military College, Warren County, Greene County and Glascock County. Those Bulldogs haven’t had a winning season since they went 6-3-1 in 2006 and according to the GHSFHA the school has never made the playoffs.
Last year Hancock Central went 2-8 taking back-to-back victories on the road, in games eight and nine, over rival Warren County 38-18 and Green County 54-42.
This season Hancock scrimmaged at home against Jenkins County and that ended in a 6-6 tie. In an unusual season opener, in the Bob Peck Kickoff Classic Hancock, played Community Christian School (Stockbridge), the best team from the GICAA (Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association). Hancock Central scored the winning touchdown in the final seconds of the third quarter for a 14-11 win.
Community Christian went 11-0 in both 2016 and 17 and beat Creekside Christian Academy (McDonough) in both state championship games 38-10 and 20-14.
In the scrimmage tie, Jenkins County scored first on a seven-yard run around left end in the second quarter. Hancock Central tied the game in the fourth quarter. Canard Chapman ran six yards for the touchdown and the Bulldogs went for two and a quarterback run failed. The Hancock defense was very aggressive and rang up 16 TFL’s (tackles for a loss).
Last Thursday, against Community Christian, the Bulldogs collected five more TFL’s. Hancock put together a long 16-play 85-yard drive in the first and second quarter and didn’t score points. A five-yard penalty in the red zone certainly didn’t help matters. The Bulldog defense, which made five tackles behind the line of scrimmage in the game, forced CC to punt out of it’s end zone and on the exchange the Bulldogs earned a short field starting at the Knights 28-yard line. This time Hancock Central needed only four plays to score. Senior quarterback Tiger Jones scored on a five-yard run and he also ran the ball in for two points to put the Bulldogs up 8-0 with 6:07 to play in the second quarter.
Community Christian quickly answered that TD with one of it’s own. Quarterback Richie Lankford took off on a 55-yard touchdown run with 4:03 remaining in the second half. The Knights lined up for the extra point, but Hancock drew a penalty flag and from the 1 1/2 the Knights ran the ball in for the two-point conversion to tie the game at 8-all.
With 59 seconds remaining in the half place kicker Kyle Kurley nailed a 32-yard field goal from the left hash to give Community Christian an 11-8 lead and the Knights set up Kurley for one more field goal try with an interception. Kurley, who drilled most of his kickoffs in to the end zone, missed a 44-yarder from the left hash as the first half came to an end.
In the middle of the third quarter Hancock Central took off on another long drive- 10 plays, 85-yards. The Bulldogs drew the Knights offsides on a fourth and one play and then a Bulldog back made an amazing run for 34-yards. He was hit at his 42, but kept his balance and continued running to the CC 45. Next Jones threw a perfect pass to the right corner of the end zone. Ryan Chatman beat the cornerback and kept both feet in bounds as he caught the 16-yard scoring pass with 8.7 seconds remaining in the third quarter. A two-point run failed giving Hancock Central a 14-11 lead.
In the fourth quarter Hancock Central intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble to hold on to the three-point victory. That was the Bulldogs first season opening victory since the 2013 season when they beat Randolph-Clay 33-14 on the road.
Hancock Central’s head coach is Marleau Blount. He was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach in 2016. This season he is stressing discipline and chemistry.
Toombs County head coach Richie Marsh has been stressing mental toughness and improving each week. In the Bulldogs 35-0 season opening win over Twiggs County, the Dawgs improved in many key phases of the game.
The kicking game- “I was very proud of Raphael (Florez), he has put in a lot of hard work,” Marsh said about his sophomore place kicker who was kicking for the first time in a varsity game at Booster Stadium. “He was 5-for-5 on extra points and some of those were after a penalty. He missed a 29-yard field goal. I think he was just trying to kick a little different than the extra points and with that said he will get better there. I am very proud of his extra point kicking. We got better in the punting game. We had shanked a couple the week prior. We averaged 29-yards a punt and that is not what we are looking for, but Cole Graham did a great job of stepping in there and getting those punts off on time. We need to get better with our distance and a lot of that has to do with the coverage, guys have to get down the field faster with the hopes that the ball will hit the ground and roll.”
The offensive line- “The offensive line really stepped up and that was the first regular season game for many of them,” Marsh said about his line which returned only one starter from last season. “We are throwing things at them very fast. The time is now for them, We have got to get it done with those guys now. Man, are we trying to push the envelope in practice each and everyday so that we can make great strides and the players are very receptive to that and they have a good heart about it. We just have to make sure that the techniques that we are using, that we don’t come immune to them. We have got to understand that each day we have to have a sense of urgency so we can be a better football team.”
The defensive front- “We have always known that Dawson Malone can play,” Marsh said about his sophomore defensive lineman. “He and Brandon Usher stepped in there for us. I thought they did a really good job chasing the ball and getting after people and they were able to cause some ruckus in their offensive backfield. We really need those two guys to step up for us and I was proud that those two men stepped up and answered the call there.”
The running game- “I thought we started out kind of timid against Twiggs Vounty, but then I got to see the old number 5 (senior running back Demetrius Owens) and the old number 5 needs to be the new number 5 and even better and we know he can and then Mincey, once he got going, I think he gained some confidence and we just need to see that confidence every time he touches the ball,” Marsh said about the Bulldog running game which totaled 188 yards against Twiggs and averaged 6.3 yards per carry and scored three rushing touchdowns.
Hancock Central has a very aggressive defense. Those Bulldogs are constantly trying to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. “We have spent a lot of time with our run game on the negative yardage. If we have to crawl for three (yards) and whatever we have to do to move the football forward, we need to do that,” Marsh said about the Hancock defense. “They get so many tackles for losses because they are so active and they blitz a lot of people. So, hopefully we can catch them out of position doing that and that’s the goal. No doubt we want to get the ball out of Trey’s (Cloud) hands fast and they are going to bring pressure. With that being said you can’t throw the ball every time. We have got to be able to run the ball, especially between the tackles. We see our little flare passes and our screens out on the edge and those have become running plays for us this year. So, catch those and get the ball down the field and we will be happy with that also.”
Against both Jenkins County and Community Christian, Hancock Central was able to establish it’s running game. “They have about five kids that run the ball the way you expect somebody to run the ball. You pick up Hancock Central you quickly realize they don’t (historically) have a great program, but I can promise you they have got a good team this year. They play together, they play hard and they are definitely are going to be a force to be reckoned with when they roll in to Booster Stadium on Friday night,” Marsh said.
In their first two games the Bulldogs from Sparta haven’t attempted an extra point after scoring a touchdown. They always go for two. So, that could lead to some unusual scores on the scoreboard in the north end zone. “Today we worked on our red zone defense. The game can swing your way or swing opposite. You just have to make sure you are ready to play from the three-yard line,” Marsh said.
Toombs County Bulldog Unofficial Statistics after 1 game
D.J. Mincey 13 carries, 53 yards (4.1) 1 TD
Demetrius Owens 8 carries, 51 yards (6.4) 1 TD
Trey Cloud 3 carries, 50 yards (16.7) 1 TD
Silas LeGrant 3 carries, 58 yards (19.3)
Octavious Roberts 1 carry, 2 yards
Kodi Cortez 1 carry, -11 yards
Josiah Smith 1 carry, 15 yards
Total 30 carries, 188 yards (6.3) 3 TD’s
Trey Cloud 4-for-13 for 103 yards 3 TD’s and 0 interceptions
Tyquan Toby 1 catch for 41 yards 1 TD
Chandler Lynn 2 catch for 32 yards 1 TD
Tyler Smith 1 catch for 30 yards
Cole Graham 3 for 88 yards (29.3)
Rafael Florez 5-5 PAT 0-1 FG missed 29 yards
Week 1 Region 2 Results
Toombs County 35, Twiggs County 0
Swainsboro 14, Jefferson County 12
Jeff Davis 35, Glenn Hills 6
Fitzgerald 45, Bacon County 7
Vidalia, Metter and Bryan County were all idle
Week 2 Region 2 Games
(1-0) Hancock Central at (1-0) Toombs County
(0-0) Vidalia at (0-0) Appling County
(1-0) Windsor Forest at (1-0) Jeff Davis
(0-1) Bacon County at 1-0 Pierce County
(0-0) Bryan County at (1-0) Claxton
(0-0) Islands at (0-0) Metter