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Bulldogs are tested

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

It’s been a grind for the Thomasville Bulldogs, who have navigated their way through one of the state’s most challenging schedules to reach the third round of the Class AA playoffs.

Thomasville (8-4), which has beaten Westside-Augusta and Dodge County in the first two rounds of the playoffs, will be at Callaway Stadium on Friday to play the Callaway Cavaliers, and the winner will face either Rabun County or Bleckley County in the semifinals next week.

Thomasville, which finished second in Region 1-AA to Fitzgerald, has played one of the most difficult schedules of any team in the state.

All four of the teams Thomasville lost to are still alive in the state playoffs.

That includes Fitzgerald, which won the Region 1-AA championship, as well as Brooks County, Bainbridge and Oconee County.

Each of those teams has advanced to the state quarterfinals in their respective classifications and are among the favorites to win it all.

After making it through the regular season with a 6-4 record, Thomasville has been dominant in the playoffs, beating Westside 42-13 and Dodge County 44-7.

“Thomasville has as good a team as we’ll see this year,” said Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins. “They have a lot of great skill players. They’re very talented, and well-coached. You don’t get to where they’re at without tradition, without work ethic, and they have that. When you get to this point in the year, everybody’s good. The number of teams are fewer, so the talent level is closer.”

Callaway and Thomasville both know what it takes to win this time of year.

Last season, both teams were in the state semifinals, and they nearly ended up playing for the championship.

While Callaway dropped its semifinal game to Brooks County 39-35, Thomasville lost a 55-45 thriller to eventual state-champion Dublin.

Thomasville gets it done with a high-powered offense that is averaging 34 points per game, a particularly impressive number considering the competition.

That offense is led by senior quarterback Ronnie Baker, a two-way threat.

Baker has thrown for 1,894 yards with 20 touchdowns, and he has 722 rushing yards with 11 touchdowns.

Running back Ricky Fulton has 730 yards with 13 touchdowns, and senior Ricardo Johnson is the leading receiver with 48 catches for 574 yards.

Last week, those players helped Thomasville explode for 31 first-half points on the way to the 44-7 win.

Baker had three touchdown runs, and he also threw a scoring pass to Patrick McNeil.

Thomasville and Callaway are both accustomed to playing deep into the playoffs, and one of the teams will move one step closer to a state championship with a win on Friday.

“There’s so much on the line,” Wiggins said. “If you lose, you go home. There’s a lot of expectations on both sides. Both teams have been in a lot of big games. There’s a lot of tradition on both sides, so it should be a great matchup.”