At age 70, Thomson's coach has seen it all

The voice on the other end of the phone line sounded confident, relaxed, calm. <P>"I don't know whether they listened," Thomson coach Luther Welsh laughed, "or just played better.

"The big thing is, a good many of them are back from last year, especially the defensive people and our offensive backfield."

When you are 14-0, haven't really had to sweat it all year long save for an overtime duel with Rome that, strangely enough, was scoreless in regulation time, have three 1,000-yard rushers on your team and have seldom played your starters past halftime, you have good reason to sound that way.

At 70, there's not much that Welsh hasn't already seen or coached.

For example, when he was asked about Central's split-back Veer, an offense that isn't all that common these days, Welsh chuckled.

"I ran that back when I coached at Dougherty..."

The single wing?

"I was a running back in the single wing. We ran it in high school."

While he was delighted with his team's success this season, he said he certainly didn't expect this kind of thing. Then again, he didn't expect it in 1984, the year he arrived at Thomson and wound up going 15-0, winning a state title.

"They really thought I was something," he laughed. "But the previous coach had moved into administration and left me some good football players who were well-coached."

With this year's team, it was strictly something that just happened.

"We sure don't plan it," Welsh said. "We just go week-to-week and we've been good enough to win them all. You know, so far, so good."

After great success, Welsh left for a while, coaching at Camden County and Screven County before the school lured him back in 1997.

"I'm happy to be back," he said. "It's a great place to coach. And when you coach in a great football town like Thomson, it just makes your job that much easier.

"(The townfolk) really know how to support (the football program), they want to have a winning team and they understand all that it takes."

So it's happened in 2002, all right. Everything Luther Welsh could have asked. Except a state title. He hopes for that on Friday night. Thomson will meet Thomas County Central in Thomson Friday night.

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