Warriors even all-time series with rival Pelham

ALABASTER – Thompson High School shook off a slow start on Friday, Sept. 29, for a 51-21 football win over Pelham.

The result evens the all-time series between the two schools at 20 wins each and improves Thompson to 5-0 for the first time since 1989.

Playing up a classification against the unbeaten, third-ranked team in Class 7A, Pelham was undeterred, using crisp execution of its option offense to take a 7-0 lead on an eight-yard run by Brandon Sledge and point-after by Gregory Blue with 2:29 on the clock in the first quarter.

The Panthers (3-3 overall and 2-1 in Class 6A, Region 3) could have led by much more, but Thompson’s KJ Robertson recovered a fumble inside his team’s 20-yard line on the first possession of the game, and then the Warriors (3-0 Class 7A, Region 3) stopped their visitors on a fourth-and-1 from their 5-yard line seconds into the second quarter.

“They came out here ready to play,” Thompson coach Mark Freeman said about the Panthers.

THS turned the turnover on downs into a four-play, 95-yard drive to even the score on a nine-yard pass from Taulia Tagovailoa to Alondae Vassar and extra point by Samual Serrato.

Pelham reclaimed the lead for the final time of the night when Xavier Lankford, under pressure on third-and-eight, heaved a pass over the defense that Edward Gipson was able to run under for a 57-yard touchdown.

Thompson went 78 yards in about 1:30 on the ensuing possession, scoring on a 15-yard pass from Tagovailoa to Ahmad Harris-Edwards.

The THS defense held on Pelham’s next possession, and on fourth down, the snap sailed over the head of punter Blue, who wisely kicked the ball out of the back of the end zone to give the Warriors two points instead of six.

After a return by Thompson’s David Douglas Jr. and two penalties on Pelham on the kickoff, the Warriors started on Pelham’s 13-yard line and took control of the game for good when Tagovailoa scrambled and found an open Mo Edwards in the end zone to make the score 23-14 going into halftime.

In the third quarter, Thompson scored on a 56-yard jaunt by JoJo Ford and a 1-yard plunge by Shadrick Byrd.

The two running backs powered the THS offense, as Byrd piled up 167 yards on 13 carries and Ford had 110 yards on nine rushes.

In the fourth quarter, Byrd’s eight-yard scoring run and Ford’s one-yard run sandwiched a 20-yard touchdown run by Pelham’s Sledge.

Thompson outgained Pelham 429 yards to 286 and had 21 first downs to the visitors’ 18.

Tagovailoa completed 15 passes in 23 attempts for 160 yards.

Harris-Edwards was his favorite target with 55 yards on seven catches.

Jalen Rayam paced the Thompson defense with 8.5 tackles.

Lankford was six-of-12 passing for 94 yards and was also Pelham’s leading rusher with 84 yards on 17 carries.

Gipson caught three passes for 69 yards.

The teams now enter final stretches of region games that will determine their playoff fates.

“It’s put up or shut up time,” Freeman said. “We’re a team that growing and learning every day.”

Thompson will visit Vestavia Hills on Friday, Oct. 6, while Pelham hosts Wetumpka the same day.