What Rome and Ware want TCCH to know

They each came close but couldn't pull it off. Rome High School's David Humphreys' Wolves carried undefeated Thomson High into overtime without allowing a single point. <P>But Rome lost 20-7.

Dan Ragle's Ware County Gators put up a whopping 35 points on a Thomson defense that had allowed just 48 points through its first eight games.

Ware County lost, 51-35.

What can these two coaches tell Thomas County Central coaches about what it takes to beat Thomson in Friday night's Class AAAA championship game?

Plenty.

"Thomson is a pretty good football team, now," Ware County coach Dan Ragle said. "We played them about as good as we can play. But we didn't slow them down."

"I'm still having a hard time with that game," Rome High coach David Humphreys said of their overtime heartbreaker. "We had a lot of opportunities to win that game — we missed two field goals (33 and 36 yards) and just missed a wide-open pass in the end zone."

To Ragle, one of their strengths is their unusual Wing-T formation.

"They run a different type of Wing-T, and they can present some problems to you, alignment-wise," he said. "Plus, they're a senior-laden team. I think 19 of the 22 starters are seniors.

"And they are physical. I think Thomas County Central has to go up there ready to play physical. Because if they can withstand that part of the game, they've got a chance to win."

In preparing his team, Humphreys acknowledged their strength and size and planned to counter it.

"They were a whole lot bigger than we were," Humphreys said, whose Wolves run the split-back Veer, like Thomas County Central. "So what we did was we watched a bunch of film on them, and we went at them with a lot of movement, a lot of different looks. We never showed them the same defense twice. We tried to keep the pressure on, blitzing a safety, a linebacker."

Though saddled with an offense that wasn't able to run the ball, Ragle tried to do the same thing.

"Their interior people aren't huge, but they're quick," he said. "And their defensive ends (twin brothers Casper and Jasper Brinkley, 6-foot-2, 240) are big guys with a big linebacker Danny Verdun (6-foor-2, 230).

"If you let them, formation-wise, they'll roll up with a 5-3 front and bring that strong safety up like an extra linebacker."

So the offense is trying to run through an eight-man front. Not an easy task.

"We didn't threaten them with the run," Ragle said. "We only ran four times. That's quite different than Central's option game. And Thomson hasn't seen an offense hit the line of scrimmage as fast as Central does. Central's ability to throw will help them immensely."

To Humphreys, what hurt Rome's chances against Thomson was his own impatience.

"We felt like we had a good defense and against us, they only crossed the 50 maybe three times," he said. "But I think I got away from the option a bit. We had some opportunities to get outside with some quick pitches, and I think I should have stayed with that more."

Humphreys credited Thomson's secondary, too.

"Though we had some chances with play-action stuff — we had a tight end wide open and missed him — they do a pretty good job of mixing up their coverage.

"We tried to jump around a bit with our formations because they've got a good defense, and if they have a good idea what you're going to do, they can shut you down."

Ragle cautioned about making mistakes on special teams.

"We had three deals on kickoffs that really hurt us," he said. "We had one where we went down, had a nice drive and scored, then kicked off to them, and they return it 95 yards for a touchdown.

"Another time, we fielded a punt on our own 2-yard-line when we should have fielded it earlier."

Humphreys said that while looking at Thomson's won-lost record (14-0) and statistical breakdown is intimidating, their schedule hasn't been.

"That was one of the things we noticed," he said. "At first, you're looking at the tapes and seeing what they're doing, and it's scary. But then, the more you look at the teams they'd played, I didn't think they'd seen a defense who could do what ours could.

"We felt like we had a good punter, and if we could make them operate on a long field and not give up long plays, which is something they've killed people with, we could stay with them.

"And heading into overtime, the game scoreless, we felt like we had them right where we wanted them."

But unfortunately, on second down in overtime, Thomson hit on a hook-and-ladder pass play. Then, after allowing a Rome TD, the Bulldogs did something they hadn't done all night.

They broke a long touchdown run and the dream of an upset was over.

"Thomas County Central's strength of schedule is definitely an advantage," Humphreys said. "They've played much stronger people to get to the title game."

" I think it should be a heck of a ballgame," Ragle said. "I know they're both pretty darn good football teams."


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