Thompson advances to semifinals for 4th straight year

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

ALABASTER – For the fourth consecutive year, the Thompson Warriors are headed to the semifinals of the Class 7A playoffs after beating Hewitt-Trussville for the second time this season on Friday, Nov. 13, by a final score of 42-16.

A team that was 0-10 in 2014, Thompson is now two wins away from defending its state championship from last year and continued a trend of winning every game by at least 13 points this season. A big key in the win was Thompson limiting Hewitt’s dynamic rushing attack to just 177 combined yards.

“Our kids played hard tonight,” Freeman said. “That’s a really good football team with a lot of weapons. I said all week that our defense had to set the tone. Our defense came and did a great job tonight.

It took a while for the game to warm up, but after a slow start, it looked as if Thompson was set to pull away early in the matchup thanks to 14 quick points between the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter.

And it started because of a blunder by the Huskies.

On fourth-and-17 from its own 38-yard line, Hewitt attempted a fake punt to the right side, but a great open-field tackle gave Thompson the ball at the Huskies’ 44-yard line.

The Warriors put together a nice drive of eight plays, which started with big runs from junior quarterback Conner Harrell and ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Harrell to J.B. Mitchell on a slant to the middle of the end zone.

Up 7-0, Thompson forced Hewitt into third-and-32 on the ensuing drive to get the ball back and the Warriors went to work with an 83-yard drive in seven plays.

The seventh play was a 27-yard touchdown pass from Harrell to Ryan Peppins, who made a cut and blew by the linebacker for a wide-open catch to make the score 14-0.

Hewitt finally answered, but had to settle for a 28-yard field goal on the next drive thanks to a stop from the Thompson defense on third-and-5 at the 11.

Then, the Huskies had another special teams mistake when they attempted a pooch kick on the kickoff, which Peppins got under, made a couple of moves and took advantage of great blocking before racing to the end zone for a 76-yard kickoff return to give the Warriors a 21-3 advantage.

Hewitt again answered with another long drive, as the Thompson defense had just gotten off the field. The Huskies capitalized on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Cade Carruth to Omari Kelley to cut the deficit to 21-10, which became the halftime score.

Coming out of the break, Hewitt got the ball first hoping to make a dent in the deficit by scoring a touchdown and cutting it to four points.

Thompson looked to be gifting it to the visitors after penalties set the Huskies up inside Thompson territory.

But the Warriors came up with a huge play, knocking the ball loose when Jeremiah Alexander pounced on it to give Thompson the ball and ruin Hewitt’s opportunity.

“That was big,” Freeman said. “These games are made on special teams, turnovers and getting off the field on third downs. It went from a bad negative to a turnover and the flow of the game changed. It was huge.”

The Warriors took advantage and marched right down the field to score on a 21-yard fade pass from Harrell to Mitchell to put Thompson on top 28-10.

From there, it was all Warriors. They scored on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Harrell to Sam Reynolds shortly after and then punched in a final touchdown early in the final quarter on a 4-yard run from Jarrett Crockett.

The Huskies added one late score, but got no closer than the final of 42-16.

Harrell had one of his lowest passing totals of the season with 175 yards, but not only did he throw for four touchdowns, he ran the ball 12 times for 100 yards. Crockett added 119 yards on 18 carries with one touchdown.

Peppins was the leading receiver with six catches for 84 yards, while Mitchell finished with six catches for 74 yards. Mitchell had two touchdown catches, while Reynolds added one.

Thompson’s defense was led by Jax Van Zandt and Alexander with eight and six tackles, respectively. Alexander also recovered a fumble.

The Warriors will now take on Hoover in the semifinals on Nov. 20 looking for a trip to their third state championship game in a row.