By Alec Etheredge
HOOVER – After a 24-21 loss to Hoover on October 22nd, the Thompson Warriors set themselves a goal – proof they were better.
They each took it for a week and beat Florence 49-10 and Oak Mountain 45-7 in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but then the Warriors got their shot; and they didn’t disappoint.
Thompson scored 21 points in the Class 7A semifinals against the Bucs on Friday, November 19, before Hoover scored with a final second field goal at the end of the first half on the scoreboard, but the gap was too big.
The Warriors added two more points in the third quarter to take a 35-10 win and reach the state championship for the fourth year in a row.
« We really wanted it, » said defensive lineman Peter Woods after the win. “It’s a crazy game. Coach (Mark) Freeman was talking before the game this morning about going back and taking what we left on the field. We don’t think we came here and allowed Hoover to beat us. Last time they took everything we gave them. So we decided to come back and take what we gave them. ”
After three-and-outs on both teams on their first two drives, it was the Bucs with a 20-yard field goal -Try to score the first shot to get points on the board, but the kick went flat and missed low and far left.
Thompson quickly responded with an 80-yard drive in eight games. It was highlighted by a 43-yard from quarterback Conner Harrell and then finished off by a 13-yard run by Justin Pegues to put the Warriors 7-0 up with 2:54 in the first quarter.
Up Hoover’s subsequent drive combined Jeremiah Alexander and Peter Woods for a sack in 3rd and 3rd place to force another punt from Bucs.
That returned the ball to the Warriors with 47 seconds remaining in the first quarter and they capitalized again This time around, Harrell hit several big-pass games, including a 13-yard pass for Jaylen Ward, a 25-yard pass for Ryan Peppins, and then a 19-yard touchdown pass for Peppins on third and -7 to limit another eight. Game drive that gave Thompson an 8:58 lead 14-0 to play in half.
Another strong two drives from Thompson’s defense followed after the two teams hit the next three ball possession. </ However, Thompson found the end zone again at halftime, and it was the connection between Harrell and Peppins again.
This time Peppins snuck behind a defender and Harrell threw him up without the defender knowing who was behind was him. It resulted in a 42-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead 2:35 before break.
Thompson had hopes for another scoring chance after hitting Hoover with his backup quarterback in the last 1:20 of the Quarter to third and fifth on his own 27, but the Bucs made their first moves since the first drive.
Backup Evan Reeder was hit by Peter Woods following his throw, and one during the ball While floating in the air, RJ Hamilton was wide open for a 50-yard catch.
The Bucs then got to the 6-yard line and after an incomplete pass that stayed on the clock for a second, they kicked After the time ran out, a chip-shot field goal to make it 21-3 in the half.
However, the Warriors got the ball at the beginning of the second half and quickly expanded their lead.
It only lasted three games thanks to a 24-yard run from Pegues, followed by a 15-yard late hit penalty and a 10-yard Run by Brandon Franklin. This established the third touchdown connection between Harrell and Peppins, this time from 29 yards to come to 28: 3 in the third quarter with 11:18.
Hoover seemed to one with several throws across the middle of the field from Reeder to create a solid drive, but then the dynamic duo came.
On the third down, Woods snuck around the end, hit Reeder and forced the ball to jump out of his hands into the hands of Jeremiah Alexander. The star defender caught the ball and walked nearly 50 yards for pick six. « The tackle had been leaning on me for the whole game, » said Woods. “I built it up with power moves, and then I just thought, ‘Ok, long third, I have to play a big game.’ just there. The quarterback was with his back to me so it just fell into my hands, I just had to do it. ”
It was a special moment for Alexander in his senior year to seal the game and the Warriors back to the state championship « It was a lot of fun. I haven’t scored a touchdown since the second year since Spain Park, » said Alexander. « It was a good feeling. He was a good quarterback. Every time he did crawled it got into my pocket so I slowed my onslaught and Peter accidentally knocked the ball to the ground and it fell into my hands.
That brought the Warriors 35-3 7:33 to the third game play, and it was more than enough as Hoover only scored one touchdown in the last 35 seconds with Thompson’s second defense in the game. « We give the offense a message in every game, just give us seven, » said Woods, « If you give us seven, we’ll do the job. That was our attitude towards the game. «
» That was a lot of motivation. Losing to Hoover in the regular season just didn’t feel right, ”he said. “We all knew the ultimate goal was to beat Hoover and win a national championship for the fourth year in a row.” And now the Warriors will have that opportunity on Wednesday December 1st against Central-Phenix City at Birmingham Protected Stadium.
Freeman said it meant a lot after the coaches and players challenged themselves to prove they were as good as they thought they were.
“(Tonight) meant a lot . It wasn’t so much about the game score, we had to see some things that we had to see to see if we were better or if people thought we were better than we actually were, « said Freeman. “We challenged our kids, you know, we’re going to find out who we are. You win 27 games and sometimes expect to win instead of desperately trying to win. I’m not much of losses, but your mind and body win a number of games and in the back of your mind you think that you will find a way to win. That was a challenge. They wanted to go back and see if they were as good as they thought. ”
Thompson was led on the offensive by Harrell and Peppins, with Harrell finishing 11-12 for 142 yards and four touchdowns while Peppins had six catches for Had 121 yards and three touchdowns. Pegues added a 13-yard touchdown reception and 55 yards on the ground.
Defensively, the Warriors finished with six tackles for the loss and a defensive touchdown. Woods scored a total of 2.5 tackles for loss and four total tackles, while Jax Van Zandt led the team with 5.5 tackles and 1.5 for loss. Tony Mitchell also added five tackles while seven players had three or more tackles to win.
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