Thomasville High School’s storied football program is in a much better position heading into the offseason in 2013 than it was a year ago.
Last season the Bulldogs were coming off a 3-7 season and head coach Richie Marsh resigned two months later, leading to a change in systems for Thomasville as well.
Fast forward a year, and the Bulldogs are working off of an 8-4 campaign that included a second-round appearance in the Class AA playoffs and a full offseason in coach Leroy Ryals’ system. That has Ryals encouraged about the future at THS.
“We got a taste of where we want to be,” he said. “We know where we need to be as far as mentally and physically.”
But for the Bulldogs to build off that successful debut season under Ryals, they will have holes to fill.
Most glaringly, Thomasville must find a featured back to replace senior star Mario Cherry. In his final season as a Bulldog, Cherry made runs at the single-game and single-season THS rushing records.
Three times topping 200 yards — including both of Thomasville’s playoff games, Cherry finished the year with 1,600 yards or just 90 yards behind William Andrews’ school mark set in the national championship 1974 season. In Thomasville’s first-round win against Westside-Augusta, Cherry churned out 245 yards on 14 carries, just 39 yards behind Jeffery Dyson’s single-game mark of 284 set in 2010 against Berrien.
However, even though Cherry nearly rushed for more yards in 2013 than the entire Thomasville team did in 2012 (1,788 yards), Ryals said the Bulldogs’ biggest loss comes in his backfield mate, quarterback Payton Dixon.
The right-hander signal-caller completed 88 of 171 passes for 1,284 yards and 14 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. He also rushed for 151 yards and four touchdowns. But those numbers don’t completely illustrate what Dixon meant to Thomasville’s attack.
See Thursday's edition for more details