THS wins thriller to start season
By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor
ALABASTER – The Thompson Warriors erased a 17-point first-half deficit and saw a would-be game-winning field goal by Hapeville (Georgia) Charter School bounce off the right upright with just over a minute remaining in the game to seal a 21-20 victory to start the season on Aug. 25.
THS junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was responsible for nearly all of the Warriors’ 359 offensive yards, as he completed 31 of 42 passing attempts for 329 yards and two touchdowns.
Tagovailoa connected with five different receivers throughout the night: Montevallo transfer and former second team All-State receiver Ahmad Edwards caught 15 passes for 136 yards, Morris Edwards caught five passes for 79 yards, Christopher Hopkins and Shad Byrd caught four passes apiece for 75 yards and 32 yards respectively and Alondae Vasser reeled in three passes for 7 yards.
“What worried me was that we were their third game, and it was our first. It doesn’t matter how good you are, you’re going to have some kinks in that first game,” said THS head coach Mark Freeman. “(Hapeville is) a good football team. It did our kids a lot of good to come out and play a quality opponent like that to start the season. I’m proud of our kids for persevering and battling through.”
After a pair of touchdowns and a field goal put the HCS Hornets ahead 17-0 late in the second quarter, Thompson linebacker Josh Huner intercepted Hapeville quarterback Hajj Malik-Williams at the Hapeville 19 yard line with 1:03 remaining in the first half. Two plays later, Joseph Ford scored on a one-yard touchdown run followed by a successful Samuel Serrato PAT to cut the Hornets’ lead to 17-7 at the half.
“Josh Huner’s play, I think turned the game around,” Freeman said. “Every game has a turning point, and I think that was the turning point. I’m so proud of Josh, because that play right there is what got us in the ballgame.”
After receiving the second-half kickoff, THS drove the ball 80 yards in three plays, capped off by a 35-yard touchdown pass from Tagovailoa to Edwards to bring the game to 17-14 with 10:43 left in the third quarter.
Hapeville capped off the third quarter with a 24-yard field goal to pull ahead 20-14, but the Warriors responded midway through the fourth quarter when Tagovailoa connected with Byrd on a 7-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to take a 21-20 lead.
Thompson’s Bill Hoffman recovered a Hapeville fumble at the THS 14 yard line with 5:57 left in the game, but the Warriors were forced to punt the ball away, giving the Hornets one final shot at victory.
Hapeville drove deep into THS territory with a little more than a minute remaining in the game, but a 35-yard field goal attempt bounced off the right upright to seal the THS win.
Thompson will have a bye week on Sept. 1 before returning home to face Tuscaloosa County on Sept. 8.