Warriors pull off comeback for 21-20 win against Vestavia on homecoming

Published 12:31 am Saturday, October 13, 2018

By ERIC STARLING | For the Reporter

ALABASTER – There was no shortage of beautiful garments on the field as Thompson celebrated homecoming Friday night. There was also no shortage of extra fabric on the field, as the Warriors were flagged for eight penalties totaling 85 yards in the first half.  Despite the many penalties, the Warriors were able to celebrate with a 21-20 victory after trailing in the fourth quarter.

“Vestavia came in prepared and played one of the best games we have probably seen from an opponent’s standpoint as they pressured Taulia for a good part of the evening,” stated Thompson head coach Mark Freeman.  “We found a way to win, and for that I am proud.”

When you amass 115 yards in penalties, you have to find a way to overcome being backed up all night.  One way to do that is to have someone like quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa that consistently throws for 300-plus yards per game. Tagovailoa went on to finish this game with 322 yards passing and two touchdowns.

The Warriors struck first on their very first series driving 82 yards in 12 plays. During the drive, Thompson sat at first-and-20 because of penalties and eventually faced a critical fourth-and-6.

Tagovailoa then connected with Michael Pettway for a 30-yard pass play to extend the drive and put the Warriors at first-and-goal from the 5. Pettway led the Warriors receiving corps with 134 yards on six receptions. Two plays later, sophomore Nathan Crockett took it in for the score and Evan McGuire’s extra point made it 7-0 Thompson.

Vestavia’s next drive ended when Will Conner forced a Vestavia fumble and returned it to the Rebel’s 28 yard line.

It appeared the Warriors were going to have their way with the Rebels as they marched the field and were soon sitting in a first-and-goal at the 5-yard line. After four straight running plays failed to get it in the end zone, the Rebels took over on downs at the 1-yard line.

The Rebels used the stop as inspiration to march the ball from one end of the field to the other to tie the score midway through the second quarter. The drive was capped by 2-yard run by Cooper Bishop.

Vestavia then followed that up by intercepting Tagovailoa on Thompson’s next drive.

The Rebels had ball at the Thompson 32-yard line.

After a third down snap went over Eli Sawyer’s head, he recovered the ball and scrambled around until Gage Motes sacked him for a 30-yard loss.

After a Vestavia punt, Thompson again found a rhythm and was able to move the ball into Rebel territory. Tagovailoa hooked up with Pettway for 31 yards and the score pushing the Warriors to a 14-7 lead after another extra point.

After going three-and-out, the Warriors watched the Rebels drive 39 yards and score on a 19 yard run by Bishop.  The extra point was missed and the Warriors lead was just one.

The Rebels surprised the Warriors with an onside kick, and after a challenge and review, it was determined that the Rebels did recover the kick and took over at the Thompson 39-yard line. After three plays, Joshua Silverman rumbled 19 yards for the Rebels’ score. A successful extra point attempt, and the Rebels led the Warriors 20-14.

It was two more series before the Warriors could mount a successful drive. Thompson would drove 80 yards in 10 plays including another fourth down conversion.

On third-and-goal, Tagovailoa found Kyle Smoak at the goal line as he backed in for the score. Mcguire’s kick gave the Warriors a 21-20 lead.

Vestavia mounted a late drive moving across midfield, but it ended when Sawyer’s pass was intercepted by Jalen Bustamante. This play gave the Warriors a chance to finish the game out.

“Jalen’s interception was a big play, and set us up to finish the game, and we couldn’t block well enough to move the ball just 10 yards to secure it,” Freeman said. “This and getting off the field on third downs on defense are things we will work on as we continue to find ways to improve.”

The Warriors punted the ball back to the Rebels, but held on for the final minute of play.

The Warriors will hope they can see drastic improvement next week when they’ll travel to take on another top-10 opponent in the Mountain Brook Spartans, who are coming off an upset of No. 2 Hewitt-Trussville on Friday, Oct. 12.