12/08/06 — Experience is key for two-time defending champ Thomasville

View Archive

Experience is key for two-time defending champ Thomasville

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on December 8, 2006 1:47 PM

THOMASVILLE -- Experience.

It's the key intangible Thomasville has heading into Saturday afternoon's game against James Kenan.

A large senior group played key roles as sophomores and juniors on the Bulldogs' title teams in 2004 and 05. This is their third consecutive trip to the state final.

"I don't know if it will be an advantage," said Thomasville coach Benji Brown. "I think when that ball is kicked off, there will be a lot of nervous 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids. I think, once you get out there and get to playing, the nerves will calm down."

Brown, at that point, expects to see two well-coached teams battle hard for state supremacy.

Thomasville (15-0) is making its ninth appearance in the state finals and has five titles to its credit. The Bulldogs finished No. 1 in the final Associated Press prep poll and haven't experienced defeat in 34 consecutive outings.

"It takes a lot of work to get to this point," said Brown.

Brown said the Tigers are comparable to Wallace-Rose Hill, which Thomasville has beaten by a single point in each of the previous two state finals. Each team has quality speed, but James Kenan has big, strong kids mixed in with its quicker players.

"That presents some different challenges than what we saw from Wallace-Rose Hill," said Brown. "We'll try to figure out how we match up, (create) the best things we can do to slow down James Kenan and find a way to move the football on them a little bit.

"We're not going to change much and I don't think they will, either."

JamesKenan averages 300-plus yards of total offense per outing and has put an average 14 or more points on the board in three playoff combined. Stedman Mathis has emerged the top rusher with 1,203 yards and 13 touchdowns.

TheBulldogs have surrendered 40 points in four postseason games.

Thomasville's defense has forced 36 turnovers in 15 contests. Senior strong safety Bud Ray has recovered a team-leading four fumbles, while free safety Jeremy McIver and Willie Green have five interceptions apiece. The Bulldog secondary has returned four picks for touchdowns.

"We're going to see something different out of James Kenan than we have seen the last two years," said Brown. "Being able to adapt and getting our kids in the best possible position to succeed will be important."