Of course, you’d expect him to say that, considering those are his players. But most would be hard-pressed to find a tandem more effective than Bell and Thomas were Friday night.
They combined for all six of the Golden Eagles’ touchdowns in a 40-14 rout of Cherokee County that sets up next week's early-season Class 4A, Region 5 showdown between Jacksonville (3-0, 2-0) and Munford (3-0, 2-0).
Thomas rushed for three touchdowns, while Bell threw for two and ran for one.
"It is true -- I’m going to take those two over anybody," Smith said. "The big key for us tonight was … our offensive and defensive lines set the tone, which allowed us to do a lot of things.
"Having (Bell) and Dominique in the backfield at the same time, they’re starting to jell and mesh. I’m tickled to death with the execution we had."
Bell threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Payton Sims in the first quarter and a 32-yarder to Sid Thurmond in the second, and then ran 37 yards for a score in the third. He was 4-of-8 passing for 63 yards and had 68 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Thomas had touchdown runs of 1, 6 and 56 yards, finishing with 110 yards on 19 carries.
"The quarterback didn’t really hurt us that much, but the running back’s really good," Cherokee County coach Trip Curry said. "But the quarterback complements him. You’ve got to watch him. They’re good."
Bell and Thomas established themselves as a combo-pack last year.
Bell rushed for more than 500 yards, passed for more than 1,000 and accounted for 17 touchdowns. Thomas was limited late in the year by an ankle injury, but rushed for 100 yards in every game he played and still finished with 1,420 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also caught 17 balls for 124 yards and two scores.
"I know it kills defenses," Thomas said. "You try to lock down on one and the other gets the upper hand. We just communicate well. We’ll probably be in the backfield the whole time before a snap just talking. We know each other’s next move and we just put it all together and it works."
It worked Friday with the help of an offensive line that met their coach’s challenge to rise above their size disadvantage against the Warriors (1-2, 1-1).
The Golden Eagles outgained the visitors 277 yards to 191, with the majority of Cherokee County’s yardage coming on a 34-yard pass midway through the second quarter, its 55-yard touchdown drive opening the second half and a 56-yard touchdown pass late in the game.
Jacksonville’s defense also collected four takeaways, off which Bell, Thomas & Company scored three touchdowns.
"Me and 'Nique, we always go out there and our goal is to have fun playing," Bell said. "He’s like my brother. Being able to play a defense with my brother, you couldn’t ask for things any better."
Ty Green scored Cherokee County’s first touchdown on a 16-yard run that cut Jacksonville's lead to 21-7. The Warriors’ other score came in the final two minutes when J.T. Hill found Quartez Henderson alone behind the Jacksonville defense and they connected on a 56-yard touchdown.
Green gained all the yardage on the first touchdown drive and finished with 97 yards on 22 carries.
Al Muskewitz is a sports writer for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.