Warriors’ comeback falls short in opening round

The Thompson Warriors came within six points of defeating the defending Class 5A state champion Benjamin Russell Wildcats, 35-29, last Friday night in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Wildcats took advantage of first-half turnovers to amass a lead that not even the Warriors’ valiant second-half efforts could overcome.

&uot;We made too many mistakes early and let them get ahead of us,&uot; Thompson head coach Ricky Seale said. &uot;I’m awfully proud of the way our guys battled in the second half. I feel like we really didn’t lose the game, we just didn’t have enough time.&uot;

Wildcat quarterback Clay Harrelson completed 12-of-21 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

Warrior quarterback Brett Rushing led Thompson throughout the game, but tailback Tony Bell was the difference-maker in the Warrior comeback. He entered in the second half and rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns.

&uot;I thought Tony Bell played a great game,&uot; Seale said, also praising his defense.

Benjamin Russell won the opening toss and elected to receive, an excellent choice, since the Warriors fumbled the opening kick, allowing junior Rod Daniels recover the ball deep in Thompson territory.

Following a six-yard scamper by

Harrelson, sophomore Darrell German broke loose over right tackle for a 17-yard touchdown run.

The three-play drive put BRHS on the board just 1:40 into the ball game.

The Warriors drove into Benjamin Russell territory on their next drive, but the turnover bug bit again, when tailback Eric Boggan dropped the ball in the backfield and German dove on the loose pigskin.

The Wildcats were unable to convert the fumble, and on Thompson1s next drive they launched an 11-play, five minute drive that ended with a field goal by standout quarterback Rushing.

The Warriors would not score again in the first half.

Harrelson immediately answered the challenge from Rushing &045; his kicking quarterback adversary &045; by taking the first snap 41 yards to turn tough field position into another red zone opportunity.

Seven plays later, on the first play of the second quarter, tailback Rod Daniels punched the ball in from 2 yards out to give BRHS the 14-3 lead.

Freshman Javarski Harrell got the ‘Cats rolling on their next possession, gaining 24 yards on his first two touches of the game.

However, a Clint Harrelson field goal attempt from 28 yards out bent wide right. BRHS turned on the passing game on their next possession, as Clay Harrelson completed passes to Jonathan Russell and Rod Daniels before finding sophomore William

Morgan for the 14-yard touchdown reception.

The Wildcats surrendered the field to the marching bands with a 21-3 halftime lead.

Benjamin Russell took the kick to open the second half, but was unable to get a first down. Harrelson unleashed a 40-yard punt to give Thompson a long field to work with.

The Warriors let it all hang out on the ensuing drive, combining Rushing’s scramble-or-pass skills with the brutal upfield running of secret weapon Tony Bell.

Thompson reached the Wildcats1 12 yard line, but could not connect on either

of two end zone passes and gave up the ball on downs.

The Wildcats then set out on their longest scoring drive of the night,

taking the ball 88 yards on seven plays, with the biggest yardage devoured on a 30-yard pass connection between Harrelson and receiver Travis Harris.

Harrelson finished the job with an 18-yard touchdown run.

Thompson answered with a 12-play drive of their own, which culminated in Rushing finding Kenny Mahone in the end zone early in the fourth quarter.

The Wildcat seniors quickly answered the challenge, as Harrelson, Russell and Eric Brock drove BRHS downfield and Brock finished the drive with a 15-yard touchdown reception to make the score 35-10.

Thompson, showing their determination to dig out of the early hole, answered the Wildcat touchdown with a two-play drive consisting of a

Rushing completion for 42 yards and a 27-yard touchdown run by Bell.

After a failed onsides kick, the Wildcats took the ball at the Warriors’ 49.

But, three plays into the drive, Mahone stepped in front of a Harrelson pass and rumbled 63 yards down the sideline to inch Thompson closer, 35-23.

The Warriors opened their next drive with a double-reverse trick play

that never fooled senior defensive end Maurice Harrell, who hit Rushing as he loaded up to throw. The hit knocked the ball loose and into the waiting grasp of BRHS senior William Martin.

The Wildcats went four-and-out on the ensuing possession, giving Thompson the ball with just over four minutes remaining and a 12-point deficit.

After the Warriors drove to the Wildcat 34, Rushing unleashed a pass to the end zone, but Russell climbed the ladder at the goal line for the apparent interception. Alas, the yellow rag in the backfield signaled a penalty &045; roughing the passer, on BRHS.

Thompson was awarded a first down, which set up a nine-yard Bell run that put the Warriors within six points at 35-29.

However, Eric Brock smothered Rushing’s onside kick and Harrelson took a knee to run out the clock on the Wildcats’ first-round playoff victory.

Seale said he was proud of the way his Warriors kept fighting, even as they were down 28-3 early in the second half.

&uot;It was a really good season, I just wish we could have gone a little further,&uot; he said.

The Warriors end the season at 7-4