Thomas County Central High School is a small-town powerhouse with enormous community support. Hudl’s Must-See Matchups helped them grow their national profile. 

Thomas County, Georgia, located along the Florida border, is a modest, unassuming place. 

Home to about 45,000 people, it’s the quintessential American community that eats, sleeps and breathes football. And the on-field product matches the passion. This small county has produced NCAA champions, NFL players and even a Heisman Trophy winner in legendary quarterback Charlie Ward. 

On a Friday night, there’s arguably no better place to be within county lines than the Jacket’s Nest, home of the Thomas County Central Yellow Jackets. “It’s the purest congregation you’re going to find,” said Randy Young, longtime broadcaster for the Yellow Jackets. “As long as you’ve got the blue and gold on and you’re yelling for the team, then you’re part of the congregation here. It’s ingrained into the DNA of the community.” 

This is all well-known locally. But a place like this deserves to be showcased on a larger scale. Enter Hudl’s Must-See Matchups. 

Since 1962, the biggest game in Thomas County has been the annual showdown between Thomas County Central and their crosstown rival, Thomasville High School. It’s one of those games that’s so meaningful it even has a name—the Rose City Rumble. “It’s a measuring stick on what your school system is,” said Thomas County Central Athletic Director Philip Duplantis. “We’ll get over 12,000 [fans] for that.”

In its over 60-year history, the Rose City Rumble has seen a bit of everything. But this year was a first. The game that serves as a point of pride for so many Thomas County residents was livestreamed nationally as the opening game of Hudl’s Must-See Matchups. 

The nation could finally see what locals had known for a long time. South Georgia football is just different.

Thomas County Central's personalized organization profile, shown on

Bringing South Georgia to the World

Must-See Matchups is a weekly livestream series on the Hudl platform, created to spotlight schools from all corners of the country. 

It features programs eager to stream their games to a larger audience and involve their students in the process. In other words, schools just like Thomas County Central. 

“We’re trying to grow our athletic department,” said Duplantis. “I think it's important to be able to show people that even in South Georgia we have a great athletic program, great facilities and great people.” 

The Yellow Jackets first started streaming their games during the pandemic. “We wanted to find a way to tap into people’s interests without making them be in the stadium,” said Young. “This seemed like a natural way to do so.” 

Attendance restrictions have since disappeared. But their stream hasn’t gone anywhere. “It’s grown from that,” said AV and Technology Specialist Kasey Massey. “Some of the trips we make are four to six hours away, and some people don’t get off until five. So [fans] are like, we’ll log on at home, sit in our pajamas, eat popcorn and watch it on our TV.” 

It’s been a godsend to people within the community. But the Thomas County pride spans far beyond state lines. Worldwide, as a matter of fact. 

“Our PR person for the high school asked where people were tuning in from last fall, and we had every continent besides Africa and South America covered,” said Young. “We had a guy [watch] from 350 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico. We've got people on destroyers out in the Indian Ocean, people in tents in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

The ability to drive revenue from the stream was also a massive selling point for Duplantis. “I think that the best thing about it is it gives you options. You have advertising options, you have your own set price,” he said. “And we went with Hudl over other services because the percentage was better on how much we made per game.”

Thomas County Central offers sponsorships to local businesses, who’ve taken notice of the stream's success. “We have to turn them away,” said Young. “We could have fifty sponsors, but we have to limit it to like eight. There's a line.” 

Streaming proceeds support both the athletic department and the audio-visual and technology units managing the broadcast. “You're able to make more to bring back to your athletic department to help our kids develop and give them what they need to be successful,” said Duplantis. 

There wasn’t an empty seat in the house for the Rose City Rumble. But there was so much additional interest that Thomas County Central earned over $5,300 in revenue from streaming the game. It was the top earner in a lucrative season for the Yellow Jackets.

“When you're in a small rural town, to be able to get out and do something great on a global or national stage is really cool.” Philip Duplantis, Athletic Director, Thomas County Central High School

The Secret Behind the Stream

Massey and Young are invaluable to the broadcast. But they’ll tell you it’s the students that make it special. 

Thomas County Central has a broadcasting department, part of an audio and video production class formerly taught by Young. Students apply their classroom learnings to the field by operating the different cameras during the game, usually three or four, depending on the night. Being part of a worldwide production has proven to be exhilarating for them. 

“When the kids know that they are providing that type of product for those folks and on that scale, it becomes very important to them. It becomes their point of pride,” said Young. “Every kid needs something to have an anchor inside that school and something to attach themselves to and for our kids. That's that thing.”

Duplantis agrees. “Being part of something bigger than yourself is really important,” he said. “It also gives them an opportunity to see if this is something that they want to do later on in life as a true career.”

A few students turning this experience into a career would be enough to consider it a success. 

Which begs the question: How many former Yellow Jackets have followed this path into the professional world? 

“Probably about a hundred or so,” Young said, casually. Their employers include a who’s who of sports media titans—ESPN, CBS, the SEC Network, and the Golf Channel. 

Even for the students who pursue a different path, their work on the broadcast is an added source of pride for the community. “When you're in a small rural town, to be able to get out and do something great on a global or national stage is really cool,” said Duplantis. 

“It's another opportunity for a new set of parents to be able to look at the school and go, hey, they got it going on,” added Young. “My kids are part of that.” 

“When the kids know that they are providing that type of product for those folks and on that scale, it becomes very important to them. It becomes their point of pride. Every kid needs something to have an anchor inside that school and something to attach themselves to. For our kids, [streaming] is that thing.” Randy Young, Broadcaster and A/V Technology and Film teacher, Thomas County Central High School

Growing the Brand

What the students do both on the field and behind the broadcast at Thomas County Central is worth celebrating. And Must-See Matchups helped share the story of this small-town powerhouse. 

“We had several news stories that were done about the streaming opportunity,” said Young. “We kept emphasizing that the kids were the ones that were really providing the product. And I think that mattered to a lot of people.” 

Regional TV stations in places like Tallahassee that learned of Must-See Matchups were blown away, said Young. “You just don’t see kids doing this,” he said. 

“There’s an opportunity they wouldn’t get anywhere else, being able to show it across the country,” added Massey. 

Duplantis jumped at the opportunity to grow the Thomas County Central brand. “I don't know what people thought of us before [Must-See Matchups], but hopefully, after this, they think ‘this is a class act,’” he said. 

“We've got great coaches, we've got great players, we've got great support people, and then maybe [viewers are] even looking at, how can I adapt this if I'm in Indiana or Iowa or Washington? If they can do it with a population of 40,000 people, can we do it?”

Hometown Pride

Thomas County Central won the Rose City Rumble, 45-7, sparking a season for the ages. It ended with the Yellow Jackets hoisting a trophy in Atlanta as 6A state title winners, their first since ‘97. 

In true Thomas County fashion, roughly 7,000 residents made the 4-hour trek north to support their team. It’s always been a tight-knit community. And Thomas County Central’s livestreaming efforts have helped them grow that connection. 

When asked about the greatest benefit their livestream has brought them, Young offered a simple answer. 

“Pride,” he said. “People who care about the community and care about the program are able to tap into it, and otherwise they wouldn’t be able to.” 

“Community,” added Massey. “Everybody coming together. They get to watch it online and cheer for one team at once.”

This sense of community and local pride is the essence of Must-See Matchups. These games provide an outlet for schools to showcase their talents to a wider audience. But above all, it’s built to foster the bond between school and community. To give students and residents something they can take pride in. 

Thomas County Central has plenty of reasons to be proud. A state championship football team. A broadcasting program that provides uncommon opportunities for students. A supportive and enabling faculty. And a community that follows it all, every step of the way.  

Must-See Matchups is back for basketball season!

Check out the schedule.