Former Cavalier goes Down Under
Published 2:46 pm Saturday, July 7, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
He took his skills down under.
For three years, Lawrence Thompson was an anchor on the offensive line for the Callaway Cavaliers, and he helped the team make some special memories.
In November of last year, Thompson played his final high-school game as Callaway lost to Brooks County in the quarterfinals of the Class AA state playoffs.
That was not the final time Thompson would put the helmet and pads on, though.
The Cavaliers were in the midst of the 2017 season when Thompson received an invitation to be a part of the Down Under Bowl in Australia.
Thompson, if he agreed to play, would be a member of a team composed primarily of American players that would play two games during the week-long event in Australia.
For Thompson, it was quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime event, and he wanted to make it happen, so he told the event organizers that he would do it.
So Thompson, accompanied by four other people including his mother Tammi, boarded a plan late last month to begin the trek to Australia.
Also making the trip was Thompson’s good friend Logan Thorpe, and those two shared a room.
Logan’s mother Leslie Thorp, and his little brother Luke rounded out the travel party.
After stops in Los Angeles and Vancouver, Thompson arrived in Australia for the Down Under Bowl.
Thompson’s team, the Brumbies, played two games in a week, and they won them both.
In the final game, the Brumbies beat New Zealand 36-12 in a game that ended early because of a serious injury to one of the players.
That victory made the Brumbies the tournament champion.
“It was an amazing trip,” Thompson said on Friday morning while overlooking the Callaway practice field where he spent so many hours over the past four years.
Thompson was in Australia for a week, and while a lot of that time was spent on the practice field or playing games, there was plenty of time built in for other activities.
There was a trip to a wildlife sanctuary, some beach time, as well as an excursion into the rain forest that proved a bit more adventurous than originally intended.
“The first bus the clutch went out in it,” Thompson said. “The second bus the transmission locked up. So we were out there in the rain forest for about a good two hours before they sent another bus to us.”
As for the football, Thompson said it was all business on the field, although everyone got along great when the games were over.
“There was a lot of trash talking, but when we were off the field we were good friends,” said Thompson, who was the center and long snapper for the Brumbies.
Thompson enjoyed getting to know his teammates, who he said were mostly from the United States with a few men from Australia mixed in.
Thompson became close with one teammate in particular, and the two have made plans to get together late this year.
“I met a dude from New York, and over the trip me and him became good friends,” Thompson said. “Now, we’ve got a hunting trip planned. I’m going to go up this fall and go deer hunting with him.”
It was, in all likelihood, the final competitive football game Thompson will ever play.
While so many of his former Callaway teammates will be playing college football, Thompson is going a different route.
“I’ll be joining an electrical union in Peachtree City and I’ll do an apprenticeship for four years,” Thompson said.
Thompson had an opportunity to play in college, but he believes he made the right decision from a long-term standpoint.
“I had a couple of junior colleges that were talking to me,” Thompson said. “After I blew one knee out two years in a row, and I messed another one up in an all-star game, I was like I’d rather walk than take that chance.”
During his three years as a starter, Thompson helped the Cavaliers win 34 games, and twice they made it at least as far as the state quarterfinals.
During his junior year, Callaway went 13-1 and reached the state semifinals before losing to Benedictine.
Callaway’s most memorable victory in 2016 came in the quarterfinals when it drove the length of the field in the closing moments to beat Screven County 35-34.
While it was quarterback Dylan Johnson leading the Cavaliers down the field, and wide receiver Braylon Sanders making the game-winning catch, the offensive line did its part by holding a powerful defensive line at bay.
Thompson said the kinship the offensive linemen shared helped make it an effective unit.
“You have to be close to be on the line,” Thompson said. “You have to know that the other person is doing their job. You don’t have to worry about what they’re doing. You just have to do your job.”
On that game-winning drive against Screven County, Callaway went 98 yards in less than a minute, with Sanders catching a 47-yard touchdown pass from Johnson on fourth down.
“(Johnson) came into the huddle, he really didn’t say much, he just said all right we’ve got the ball, let’s go score,” Thompson said, recalling that moment from that epic game.
As for his time at Callaway, Thompson said “it was really amazing. You can’t ask for a better coaching staff. You really can’t.”