In case anyone still had doubts, T.C. Williams sent the Northern Region a loud message last night at Annandale.

The Titans are back.

Using two big plays and a defense that held the high-powered Atoms to 94 total yards, the third-ranked Titans overwhelmed fifth-ranked Annandale, 28-14, at J. Wallace Bolding Stadium.

T.C. Williams took a 28-0 lead and, after two mediocre seasons by Titans standards, saw its record raised to 3-0. Annandale fell to 2-1.

Ratcliff Thomas (124 yards on 12 carries) struck first with a 78-yard touchdown with 1:48 left in the first quarter to give the Titans a 7-0 lead. Then, on the last play of the quarter, Rashawn Jackson (142 yards on 18 carries) scooped up Ezra Whorley's fumble and went 91 yards along the left sideline to put T.C. Williams ahead by 14-0.

"It was supposed to be a sprint option, but Ezra fumbled the ball," said Jackson. "At first I said, 'Jump on it,' but then I said, 'What the heck, let's see what you can do.' "

T.C. Williams's Ricky Ross followed with two touchdowns, one after a long drive and one after the Titans recovered a fumbled punt at the Atoms' 5, and that provided a 28-0 lead late in the second quarter. The Titans ended the night with 340 yards rushing.

"It was a good emotional game for us," said Titans Coach Glenn Furman. "When T.C. Williams puts 28 points on the board it's pretty much curtains."

Annandale running back John Milliner, who had been averaging nearly 200 yards per game, got 92 yards on 11 carries, 60 of which came on a touchdown just before the half.

And, with Rhasheyd Williams unable to throw because of constant pressure, the Atoms never got going. Williams finished the game three for 12 for 19 yards with an interception.

Ricky Roberts had a spectacular 86-yard punt return to cut the margin to 28-14 early in the third quarter but that was as close as the Atoms would get.

"They're just so physical defensively," said Coach Dick Adams. "All our games we've been able to establish some kind of running game, and that was tough to do tonight. We just got whipped up front."