Red-hot Warriors – Thompson forces six Briarwood turnovers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Thompson’s defense forced six Briarwood turnovers without allowing a touchdown to help the Warriors knock off a ranked opponent for the second straight game.

Thompson (3-1) handed Class 5A, No. 4 Briarwood its second loss of the season with a 13-3 defeat at James L. Simmons Field.

The Lions outgained the 6A Warriors 341 yards to 213, but timely plays by the Thompson defense made the difference.

&uot;Our defense came up with big stops when they had to,&uot; said Thompson coach Ricky Seale.

The Briarwood defense was also impressive, allowing just 11 Thompson first downs.

The Warriors were only able to move the chains during one of their possessions in the second half, on a 66-yard drive in the fourth quarter capped off by quarterback Chris Myles’ 12-yard touchdown run. But after a 25-yard first-half field goal by Aaron Hawk, it was all the Warriors needed to secure the win.

David Elmer’s kick with 3 minutes, 40 seconds remaining in the third quarter was good from 27 yards, giving Briarwood its only points of the game.

Lions quarterback Tanner Gell was 23-of-35, passing for 259 yards, but he was picked off four times by Thompson defenders.

&uot;Tanner Gell threw the ball tremendously when he wasn’t throwing interceptions,&uot; Briarwood coach Fred Yancey said. &uot;He’s learning how to play the position.&uot;

Thompson’s Michael Hall seemed to be in the right place all night, snatching three of Gell’s passes. Chase Myles also intercepted a pass for the Warriors while Chris McNeal had a tackle for a loss, forced fumble and fumble recovery. Brad Dooley also recovered a fumble for Thompson.

&uot;I’m just glad we finally came out on top,&uot; Seale said, after his team defeated Briarwood for the first time in three years.

The last two games in the series went to the Lions in the final plays of the game. Briarwood receiver Charles Hoke, then a sophomore, came down with a deflected pass in the end zone to win the game in 2002, while a last-second field goal lifted the Lions to victory in last year’s contest.

&uot;Our goal was to keep it from being close so they didn’t have that opportunity to beat us late in the game,&uot; said Thompson guard Landen Vickery. &uot;We didn’t succeed on that goal but we did on our main goal and that was to bring home a victory.&uot;

Vickery, a member of one of the county’s biggest offensive lines, said the much-hyped Briarwood defensive front was as good as advertised.

He said predictions of a battle in the trenches were right on key.

&uot;It was a fight all night long,&uot; Vickery said. &uot;If you noticed, we scored with just a few minutes left on the clock. That goes to show that it was true, what they said held up tonight.&uot;

Thompson punter Nick Harris boomed eight kicks for a 46-yard average, forcing the Lions to begin each drive from deep inside their own territory.

Hoke again became the go-to receiver for Briarwood, catching nine passes for 104 yards.

&uot;He came through in the clutch,&uot; Yancey said of the 6-foot-7 Hoke. &uot;They knew we were going to go to him and he was still nearly unstoppable.&uot;

But Hoke and the Lions couldn’t penetrate a Thompson defense that refused to allow its opponents into the end zone.

Briarwood became the second ranked team to fall to Thompson, who moved from Class 5A to 6A before the season began. The Warriors defeated then-No. 9 Spain Park at Jaguar Stadium in Week 3.

Thompson returns to region play Friday night with a test on the road at Mountain Brook. Briarwood travels to Sylacauga