DAWSON, Ga. --- Weakened so much by the flu that he could hardly move, all Don Beard could offer was a prayer.
"I just talked to the Lord to please let me be there with my boys," he said.
The patriarch of Terrell Academy's football program, Beard had been a head coach for a combined 33 years, winning three state titles during the '90s. Now 70, and still serving as the team's defensive coordinator, he wanted to experience the GISA Class A championship Terrell Academy was about to win again.
He said he would not have missed it after his team repeated as state champion with a 28-12 win against Thomas Jefferson on Friday night.
After the Eagles led 21-0 at halftime, the only uncertainty was whether Beard could walk the sideline. The last time he was not there, the Eagles lost in the 2007 semifinals to Thomas Jefferson.
"It was a huge relief to me and the rest of the team to see him there," said Bill Murdock, the head coach and headmaster who has been at the school since 2005. "We knew he would fight with all he had just to be there."
Containing Thomas Jefferson's rushing game, the Eagles took a 7-0 lead with Cole Byrd's first score from 28 yards.
Known as a team dependent on Byrd's running, the Eagles threw the Jaguars off balance with quarterback Cole Phillips' passing. Phillips completed a 39-yarder to Caleb White on third-and-long, and that set the stage for several big plays.
Phillips said a lot of that energy had to do with Beard's presence.
"We were ready to go when we saw coach Beard," said Phillips, who finished with 148 yards.
Terrell Academy led 21-0, after a trick play on third down in which Chris Rogers completed a 25-yard TD pass to White.
The Eagles made big plays on several third downs in what at first appeared could be another blowout like last year's 61-26 victory.
"They had five third-and-long plays and completed three of them for touchdowns," Thomas Jefferson coach Chuck Wimberly said. "We knew going into the game it would be speed against speed, but they made the big plays when they had to."
Thomas Jefferson did try to make a run. The Jaguars scored the game's final points with TDs by Austin Dressel and Taylor Barrentine. Thomas Jefferson rushed for 201 yards.
Said Wimberly: "We did get to the championship game, though. Only two teams can say that at the end of each year."
T. Jefferson 0 0 6 6 -- 12
Terrell 7 14 7 0 -- 28
RUSHING--Thomas Jefferson: Austin Dressel 20-73, Nick Whitmer 12-63, Taylor Barrentine 17-63, Michael Bridges 2-16, Chase Walden 1-1.
PASSING--Thomas Jefferson: Chase Walden 5-8-0 22.
RECEIVING--Thomas Jefferson: Mason Johnson 2-16, David Linyard 1-5, Whitmer 1-0.