Thompson overcomes 28-0 deficit to down Hewitt-Trussville on national TV

Published 11:36 pm Friday, October 26, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

ALABSTER – Down 28-0 to Hewitt-Trussville with 9:45 to play in the second quarter, the Thompson Warriors didn’t panic in a game televised nationally by ESPN2, and put on a show for the cameras by outscoring the Huskies 63-21 the rest of the way to take them down 63-49 in a top-5 matchup.

With the win, Thompson also gained the No. 2 seed in Class 7A Region 3, meaning home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

“We just kept playing football,” Thompson head coach Mark Freeman. “You build a team that doesn’t lose confidence in each other. We talked about just playing the next play. At halftime we talked about that and it wasn’t just lip service. It meant something.”

Just like the Warriors’ matchup with Hoover, that they ended up losing 45-26, Thompson found itself down 21-0 at the end of the first quarter thanks to a strong ground attack from Hewitt-Trussville.

It didn’t get any better after one drive from the Huskies in the second quarter, as they extended that lead to 28-0 on a 47-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Varrius Johnson, who ended the game with nine receptions for 227 yards and two touchdowns.

Finally, with 4:45 left in the first half, not only did Thompson make some noise, but the game became what was expected, an offensive track meet.

With 4:45 left, Thompson quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa took the ball 45 yards to the house for the Warriors’ first touchdown of the game, and one of his longest runs since becoming a Thompson Warrior.

Two plays into the ensuing drive, the Warriors’ defense used that shift in momentum and forced a fumble to set the offense back up inside Huskies’ 30-yard line.

One play later, Tagovailoa connected with J.B. Mitchell for a 27-yard touchdown pass to cut the Hewitt-Trussville lead to 28-14 with 4:02 left in the first half.

To make it even crazier, Johnson decided to add to what was already set to be a special night and returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown to give Hewitt what seemed to be at the time a huge momentum killer for the Warriors.

With 3:45 left in the in the half, there was still too much time for Thompson to score, and the Warriors took advantage.

Seeing Tagovailoa reel off a long touchdown run a few drives earlier, the offense got back to the game plan they had set coming into the game and ran the ball on the ensuing drive.

Shadrick Byrd reeled off three carries for a combined 30 yards before Tagovailoa picked up his second rushing touchdown of the game on a 23-yard touchdown run with 46 seconds left.

“We were thinking, ‘Why not us,’” Tagovailoa said of the mountain to climb down 28 points. “That was an opportunity. We were tested to see if we were going to fold or keep fighting. We kept fighting. Our confidence was always high.”

That capped off a 2:59 stretch where the two teams combined for a total of four touchdowns to bring the halftime score to 35-21 in favor of the Huskies.

Thompson, however, had gained a ton of offensive momentum, specifically on the ground, and it showed early in the second half.

Byrd came out and got seven carries on the opening drive of the second half, and totaled 60 yards, capped off by an 18-yard touchdown run that brought Thompson within one score with 7:55 to play in the third quarter.

“I have the best quarterback in the country,” Byrd said. “He started making plays before halftime, so I was right behind him. The o-line wanted to move the ball and wanted to run the ball hard, which was a good feeling.”

That became the theme of the second half, as the Warriors ended the night with 385 yards on the ground.

Finally, with the offense making plays and battling back, the defense showed that it could make halftime adjustments and help the team climb the mountain back into the game.

The Thompson defense forced two consecutive three-and-outs to start the half after a first half that saw them struggle covering players and stopping the run.

The Warriors were able to thank the defense by putting two more touchdowns on the board thanks to Byrd having 30 yards on one drive, capped off by an 8-yard touchdown run by Jarrett Crockett, and then Tagovailoa totaling 34 yards on the next drive followed by a 2-yard touchdown run by Byrd to give Thompson its first lead of the game at 42-35.

Hewitt answered with a touchdown of its own on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Tyson, but Byrd answered right back again.

Two plays into the next drive, the senior running back reeled off a 44-yard touchdown run to put the Warriors back on top 49-42.

“I knew I was going to get going,” Byrd said. “I can’t pass up the opportunity when I get touches. The offensive line and defense were playing so well that I had to take advantage.”

Yet again, the Huskies answered in what had become an incredible back-and-forth affair between two state championship contenders.

After Hewitt knotted the score at 49-49, Tagovailoa was able to catch the defense sneaking up to stop the run and hit Michael Pettway in the middle of the field, who then took it 44 yards to the house for another Thompson touchdown and a 56-49 lead.

Then came the break of the game.

With both teams in an offensive game with touchdowns all of a sudden alternating between the two, Thompson’s defense was able to make the biggest play of the game.

On a Tyson pass to Johnson, the ball was almost caught, but fell and hit his foot, before D.J. Douglas swooped in to grab the ball for an interception.

With Thompson already up by a touchdown with 1:30 to play, the offense got the ball back at the Huskies’ 30-yard line and went on to close the game out with another touchdown drive thanks to Crocket punching the ball in from a yard out with 50 seconds left after Tagovailoa had set the team up with a 20-yard run the play before.

“We put it on his back again tonight,” Freeman said. “He’s worked hard in the offseason to be able to run the football and do some things we weren’t able to do with him a year ago. While we got him, we’re going to do the best we can with him.”

Byrd ended the game with 207 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries to lead the Warriors. He also added 54 receiving yards on three receptions.

Tagovailoa finished the game 15-of-26 for 264 yards and two touchdowns through the air, while adding 157 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The Warriors ended the game with seven touchdowns on the ground.

Pettway had three receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown, while Mitchell added 51 yards and a touchdown on two catches.

Tyson ended the game 15-of-24 for 270 yards and three touchdowns. Armoni Goodwin added 193 yards and one touchdown on the ground.

The Warriors will now travel to Crestview (Fla.) to close the 2018 regular season before hosting Florence in the first round of the playoffs a week later.

Find all photos from the game here.