Slow start costs Thompson in top-2 matchup with Hoover

Published 11:25 pm Friday, September 7, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

HOOVER – The stage was set again this year when Thompson and Hoover met as the No. 1 and No. 2 team, respectively, at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium on Friday, Sept. 7.

Coming into the game, the Warriors overtook the No. 1 spot from Hoover just a mere three days before and the Bucs came out on a mission to prove that was a big mistake and did so with a double-digit victory.

After taking a 21-0 lead in the early going, the Bucs were able to stave off a couple of Thompson comeback attempts throughout the game to prevail with a 45-26 win.

“It’s a good game for us to go back after Week 3 and find out what we did and what we can correct and get ourselves better from that,” Freeman said after the loss. “Like I said, it’s Week 3, so we have to go back and fix some things.”

Just three plays into the game on third-and-10 from his own 20-yard line, Hoover quarterback Robby Ashford busted loose up the middle for a 55-yard run that put the Bucs on Thompson’s 25-yard line.

Mistakes set Hoover (2-1, 1-0) back, however, pushing them into a third-and-42 at one point after back-to-back penalties.

The Bucs decided to go ahead and punt on third down, which was a blessing in disguise. Not knowing what to expect, a Thompson player tried to field the punt over his head inside the 5-yard line, but instead he muffed it and Hoover took over at the 1-yard line.

One play later, running back Larry McCammon got in the end zone for the first score of the game as the Bucs had gone on top 7-0.

Thompson (2-1, 0-1) tried to answer on the ensuing drive, but a fourth-down pass inside the 20-yard line was dropped to end a nine-play drive with no points.

Hoover’s offense came right back on the field after taking over on its own 13-yard line and quickly marched the 87 yards necessary to extend its lead to 14-0.

McCammon, Ashford and Anthony Hayes all reeled off big runs of at least 14 yards before Auburn commit George Pickens capped the drive off with a 7-yard touchdown catch.

After a three-and-out by the Warriors’ offense, an exhausted Thompson defense was forced back to the field very quickly and it showed.

Holes in the run defense were present for a couple of more plays before Ashford took advantage of open holes in the secondary for a 29-yard touchdown pass to Ben Trulove, who beat two defenders before laying out for a tremendous touchdown catch that put the Bucs on top 21-0.

“The game started off the opposite of what we needed it to,” Freeman said. “When you’re young, you don’t need anything in the first couple of minutes to happen like that. We created it and caused it, but we’ll go back and get better from this.”

With 10:08 left in the half, the Warriors needed a big answer, and they got it.

It was a 22-yard pass to Kyle Smoak that not only got the Thompson offense going, but woke Taulia Tagovailoa up, a dangerous situation for Hoover’s defense.

One play later, Tagovailoa connected with Michael Pettway for a 30-yard pass, before Smoakd caught two more passes in a row, one for 7 yards and the second for 8 yards and a touchdown. After a missed PAT, Thompson trailed 21-6, but had finally gotten some confidence offensively.

Hoover went on to answer with a 41-yard field goal on its next drive, but it was a drive where the Bucs had gotten to the Thompson 4-yard line, which made the field goal a win.

Then, Tagovailoa stepped back onto the field and picked up right where he left off, completing three straight passes, one to Smoak for 13 yards, and two more to A.J. Bonham for 35 and 32 yards. The second of those catches by Bonham was a touchdown, as Tagovailoa had taken the Warriors 80 yards in three plays to make the score 24-12.

After a failed 2-point conversion, that was the halftime score.

Getting the ball to start the second half, Thompson had a chance to really put the pressure on Hoover, but the Warriors squandered away the opportunity.

They had a strong chance after driving down the field, but three straight dropped passes that would have been first downs or possibly even touchdowns caused them to attempt a field goal that was then missed.

Hoover made Thompson pay quickly again, and went on to add to its lead by scoring on its first drive of the half after McCammon broke loose for a 23-yard touchdown run to put the Bucs up 31-12 with 7:02 left in the third quarter.

Finally, the Warriors seemed to steal the momentum after that and it started with a strong touchdown drive on the ensuing drive.

Taking over on their own 20-yard line, the Warriors went 80 yards in less than a minute for the second time in the game after Smoak caught a pass for 27 yards early in the drive.

Thompson actually faced a foruth-and-5 from the Hoover 48-yard line shortly after, but on that fourth down play, Tagovailoa connected with Pettway for a 48-yard touchdown pass deep down the right sideline. Smoak added the 2-point conversion to make the score 31-20 midway through the third quarter.

Needing a big defensive play, the Warriors finally got the break they needed on Hoover’s next drive when Elijah Clayton ripped a ball away from the Bucs’ receiver on a deep pass to give the Warriors the ball back.

After a long drive featuring more than 10 plays, Tagovailoa connected with Pettway for an 8-yard touchdown pass to cap off the scoring drive that brought the Warriors to within five points at 31-26 with 2:46 to play in the quarter.

At that point, the Warriors had outscored Hoover 26-10 in less than two quarters of play.

Unfortunately, it was the final score Thompson put on the board.

“I don’t think our kids ever quit, they played hard,” Freeman said. “Hoover’s got a good program and a good team. You’ve got to give them credit because they were the better team tonight.”

Hoover went on to answer on the ensuing drive with a 7-yard touchdown run from Ashford.

Thompson had a chance and was driving with just over seven minutes remaining in the game, but inside the Hoover 30-yard line, Tagovailoa threw his only pick of the game, when Jabari Moore stepped in front of the pass, before returning it inside the 5-yard line.

The Bucs capped that drive off to put the game out of reach, before pulling off the 45-26 win.

Had Thompson gone on to score instead of throw the interception, they would have been down by just one score with three timeouts left, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Tagovailoa finished the game 33-of-61 for 474 yards and four touchdowns, as well as one interceptions. Both J.B. Mitchell (152) and Michael Pettway (115) had 100-plus receiving yards, while Pettway had two touchdowns. Smoak had 89 yards receiving and one touchdown on eight receptions, while A.J. Bonham added 67 yards and one touchdown on two receptions.

Through three games of the season, Tagovailoa has now thrown for 1,131 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Shadrick Byrd led the Warriors on the ground with 67 yards on 13 carries.

Hoover was carried by Ashford’s 146 yards rushing and McCammon’s 103 yards rushing.

Thompson will now prepare to play Oak Mountain on Friday, Sept. 14, in the first ever home game at the new Warrior Stadium.