ALABASTER, Alabama -- The Thompson Warriors used big play after big play to go onto claim the Class 7A, Region 3 Championship with a big 39-23 win over Hoover at Warriors Stadium Friday night. The Warriors used their passing game to get big chunks of yardage along with a timely pick 6 on defense to get the big region win.
Even though the Bucs defense turned in three turnovers in the game, it wasn't enough to get the win. Thompson had two huge 80-yards in the third quarter to put the game away for the Warriors. "I thought we came out with great intensity," said Warriors Head coach Mark Freeman. "We had to move a few kids around early in the week and the kids really responded well. Our defensive coaches did a great job getting our kids prepared. I think everytime we had the ball in the third quarter, we scored other than the one fumble. We did a good job of getting off the field on third down."
After a three and out by the Hoover offense, Thompson (10-0, 7-0) scored first in the game. A Jarrett Crockett screen pass took the Warriors offense deep into Hoover territory. A few plays later, Crockett scores on a 2-yard touchdown run right up the middle and Thompson led 7-0. Hoover responded on a RJ Hamilton 20-yard reception and a big fourth down run by Dylan Pauley to setup the Bucs first score. With :28 seconds left in the first quarter, Hoover scored on a Jaylen Taylor 2-yard touchdown run and the Bucs tied the score at 7-7.
Thompson moved the ball again on two big Sam Reynolds receptions along with a few Crockett carries and the Warriors were deep into Bucs territory, but a the two-yard line Harrell drops back and throws in the end zone and is picked off by linebacker Marcus Williams for a big 75-yard return. On the next play, Taylor blasts his way down to the Warriors 10-yard line but the Bucs had to settle for a Constantine Hontzas 28-yard field goal. WIth the score, Hoover took a 10-7 lead with 6:02 left in the second quarter, but that lead didn't last long.
With the Warriors at their own 35-yard line to start the drive, Harrell finds JB Mitchell on a 25-yard pass but Mitchell breaks a tackle on the sidelines and turns it up the field for was Warriors unbelievable touchdown reception. Mitchell weaved his way into the end zone for a Warriors touchdown with 5:42 left in the second quarter. With the Thompson touchdown, the Warriors led 13-10. "We didn't think that they could tackle very well going into the week," said Warriors receiver Mitchell. "Just cut to the middle and being aggressive and finishing the play. This feels great to get this win and the region title. We can't be complacent, we have to keep working hard each practice."
Late in the first half, the Bucs defense gets another interception on a Messiah Tolen defensive play. The Bucs were in Warriors territory driving late in the first half, but this is the second big play of the game. Cornerback Gavin Shipman scored on a 72-yard pick six with only :37 seconds left in the half and gave all the momentum to Thompson leading 19-10 at the half. "That was a huge play for us," added Freeman. "We swapped turnovers but ours was for a touchdown. Gavin played really well for us tonight. So proud of our defense that kept us in the game all night."
Starting the second half, Thompson came out and set the tone for the second half. A Crockett big 23-yard run and two Ryan Peppins receptions set the Warriors offense up deep inside Bucs territory. With 9:31 left in the third quarter, Crockett dove into the end zone from 1-yard out for the Thompson touchdown. With the score, the Warriors led 26-10. A huge 80-yard drive for Thompson. Hoover came right back on moving the football, Brian Porter with a 30-yard run along with a Hamilton 25-yard reception put the Bucs back into Warriors territory, but it ended on a missed 38-yard field goal.
Thompson gets the ball back on their own 20-yard line and on the first play, Harrell scrambles and gets hit from behind and Bucs defensive lineman Marcus Clark picks up the loose fumble and races 16-yards for the Bucs score. WIth 6:07 left in the third quarter, Hoover still trailed 26-16. Hoover tried a 2-point conversion but failed on the play.
Thompson gets the ball at their own 20-yard line again and drives 80-yards for another Warriors touchdown. Another back breaker for the Bucs. Ahmari Bolden with a 15-yard run up the middle with with a couple Sam Reynolds receptions sets up the Warriors score. With on :21 seconds left in the third quarter, Mitchell scores again on a Harrell 14-yard touchdown pass play for Thompson. With the touchdown, Thompson led 33-16 and those two Warriors 80-yard drives were big for Thompson.
Hoover is not done though. Porter with a big 30-yard reception play along with a roughing the quarterback penalty put the Bucs offense in good field position. A few plays later, Pauley scores on a 1-yard touchdown run with 8:42 left in the fourth quarter. After the Bucs touchdown, the Thompson lead was trimmed to 33-23 early in the fourth quarter.
With Thompson taking over the football, three big Crockett runs take the ball deep into Hoover territory. With Thompson lining up for a field goal attempt, the Bucs are called for unsportsmanlike conduct and the fourth down turns into first down at the Hoover 3-yard line. On the next play, Crockett goes in the end zone with a 3-yard touchdown run to close out the game. "I was hyped, I was hyped after that touchdown," said the Warriors RB Crockett. "I think that was my only third truck of the year, it felt great. Having back to back titles is an unbelievable feeling. Beating Hoover four times in a row against a dominate team in Hoover is a great feeling right now. I had to work harder to get back on the field in the weight room but I'm ready for the playoffs. We need coming into the game, they were going to depend on me and so we worked hard in practice and just transferred it into the game."
Harrell finished the game completing 28-of-34 passing for 301 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions and a fumble. The junior quarterback had 25 yards rushing. Mitchell led the receivers with 123 yards on 6 receptions and the two touchdowns. Peppins had 11 catches for 69 yards and Sam Reynolds added six catches for 63 yards. Tre Roberson did not dress out in the game. The four Thompson wide receivers have been a huge story along with first-year quarterback Harrell for the Warriors.
Thompson had 467 total yards while holding Hoover to their season low of 239 total yards.
Up next, both teams have the last week of the regular season before the playoffs. Thompson will host Grissom while Hoover will host Sparkman in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs.