One for the History books: Thompson beats Hoover for first time

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor 

HOOVER – It was a 98-yard drive with 9:47 remaining in the fourth quarter that sparked Thompson’s 32-25 win over the Hoover Buccaneers on Friday, Oct. 27, the first ever win for the No. 3 Warriors over the No. 2 Bucs.

What became the game-winning touchdown drive and one of the most historic drives in Thompson football history actually started with a one-play, a 98-yard touchdown pass from Taulia Tagovailoa to Mo Edwards, but an ineligible man down field penalty brought it back.

Still down 25-24, the Warriors weren’t phased, however, and went on to go on a five-minute drive behind several key passes to Mo Edwards and several hard-nosed runs from running back Shadrick Byrd.

A 19-yard pass from Tagovailoa to Michael Pettway set Thompson up on the Hoover 12-yard line, before Ahmad Edwards hauled in a 12-yard touchdown catch to cap off the drive and give the Warriors a 30-25 lead. After the score, Thompson went for two where Pettway caught a perfect pass all alone in the back of the end zone to give the Warriors a seven-point, 32-25 lead.

“That’s the kind of kids they are,” Freeman said. “We hit a play on them and it breaks your heart to see it come back. But the kids were resilient. I’m just proud. To come to the Hoover Met and to hit two 90-plus yard drives, man we’re just blessed.”

While the score was big and seemed to kill the momentum Hoover had built in a game where the momentum tilted back and forth like a seesaw, Thompson still had to play defense with 4:53 remaining in the game.

Hoover started at its own 19 on the ensuing drive and attempted to do what they had done all night, run the ball. It didn’t work though, as Thompson gave the Bucs no breathing room and got three straight tackles for no gain or a loss of yards, including on third down, or “Money down” as it’s known for the Warriors.

“We had to step up,” four-year starting linebacker K.J. Robertson said after the historic win. “We knew the offense was giving its all, so we had to give it our all. That was it, that’s just how we had to finish to win this game.”

Thompson got the ball back with 2:36 to play and ran some time off the clock, but eventually had to punt back to the Bucs with 13 seconds remaining. The Warriors punted it to the return man, who escaped a few tackles, but his running around led to all 13 seconds bleeding off the clock as pandemonium set in and the Warrior faithful, players and coaches had clinched their first win over Hoover in school history.

“It’s sweet,” Jalen Rayam said after, another four-year starting linebacker. “We’ve been going through the tough times for three years and finally pulled it off. It’s not the end result though. I’m happy with the win, but we aren’t satisfied with the playoffs starting in a couple of weeks.”

The rest of the game leading up to that thrilling finish was a waver of emotions and momentum.

Thompson forced a three-and-out on Hoover’s first drive and proceeded to take its first drive down the field with ease behind 49 yards of rushing from Byrd, who busted open runs of 31, 13 and five yards, before the drive stalled and Thompson was forced to kick a field goal to take a 3-0 lead.

Hoover answered back quickly by using one play on its next drive as Larry McCammon went 80 yards on the first play to grab his first touchdown of the night and give the Bucs a 6-3 lead after a missed PAT.

Thompson continued to struggle stopping Hoover’s run game as the pre-snap shifts and blocking schemes opened up big holes. The Bucs took advantage of it and went on another lengthy drive before McCammon ran in his second touchdown in as many drives, this time from 5 yards out to give Hoover a 13-3 lead.

The Thompson defense, finally woke up midway through the second quarter forcing a fumble, three-and-out and another fumble. It led to Byrd running in two short touchdowns after one solid drive and one fumble return by Robertson to the Hoover 2-yard line, which gave the Warriors a 17-13 lead at the half.

Byrd ended the half with 80 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

“If they call my number, I just gotta do what I gotta do,” Byrd said after the game. “I know they’re going to try to shut down our receiving corps with Tualia, so when they call my number, I just gotta do my work.”

The Warriors had really stolen momentum away heading into the half, and after they came out and Byrd put up his third touchdown in as many drives to start the second half after sprinting 30 yards to the end zone, Thompson looked to be right where they wanted to be up 24-13.

Despite giving up 21-unanswered points, Hoover wasn’t ready to go away quietly on its home field and came right back to score on an eight-play drive that was capped off by yet another touchdown from McCammon to cut the Thompson lead to 24-19.

Thompson still held the lead, but on its next drive, Tagovailoa threw a pick-6 on third down as Chase Brown stepped in front of his pass to the near sideline and took it 70 yards to the end zone to give Hoover a 25-24 lead and all of the momentum back.

The Warriors went three-and-out on their next drive, but on Hoover’s ensuing drive, Thompson’s defense forced its third turnover of the game after a big gain by McCammon ended with his second fumble.

While Thompson didn’t score then, it kept Hoover from going on to score a touchdown that would have extended the Bucs’ lead.

Thompson’s defense stepped up the rest of the game and forced a punt on Hoover’s next drive, before going on the 98-yard game-winning drive.

The magic number was 20: 20 years since the Warriors had won a region championship and 0-20 all time against the Hoover Bucs; both of which came to an end on Oct. 27.

“It goes back to last year and the years where we’ve been so close,” Robertson said. “0-20 is a hard thing to go up against, but it was just a regular game. We started off real slow, but fought as hard as we could and came out on top.”

Byrd ended the night as the lead offensive guy for Thompson with 131 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Tagovailoa threw for a shade over 200 yards, finishing with 230, while Mo Edwards was on the receiving end of 130 of that 230 yards.

“It was a good game like we expected,” Byrd said. “It was great for the city of Alabaster to come out with this W after a 20-game losing streak.”

It’s not just a historic win from a standpoint of beating Hoover for the first time ever, but winning the Class 7A, Region 3 Championship. Thompson will now go into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed out of arguably the toughest division in the classification.

“We did a lot better job of facing adversity tonight than we have the last few years,” Rayam said. “We didn’t let it affect us when the ball didn’t bounce our way. It led to us picking up a generational win for the region championship, which hasn’t been done in ages.”

The Warriors (9-0, 7-0) will end the regular season on Thursday night, Nov. 2, when they travel to Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa.

Photos available at www.shelbycountyphotos.com.