Predicting round 2: Lions face No. 2 Vigor, Thompson set for rematch with Huskies
Published 1:51 pm Thursday, November 15, 2018
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor
Round one of the 2018 postseason has come and gone, and with it went three of Shelby County’s football teams. Left standing in round two are the two teams that have been consistently ranked inside the top 10 of their respective classification all season; the Briarwood Lions and Thompson Warriors.
Both picked up dominant wins to start the playoffs and look like legitimate threats for deep runs again this season, just as both had last year, but if those runs are going to continue, they’ll have to move through two extremely talented top-five opponents first.
Below we break down both second-round matchups ahead of Friday night, including a prediction for each.
Thompson vs. Hewitt-Trussville
For the second time in four weeks, and the second time in their last three games, the Thompson Warriors will play host to the Hewitt-Trussville Huskies in a battle of top-5 teams with a spot in the semifinals of the playoffs on the line.
Heading into the first matchup on Friday, Oct. 26, the buildup was two Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback commits squaring off against one another in a nationally televised game on ESPN2.
The game lived up to the hype with Hewitt-Trussville taking a 28-0 lead early in the second quarter, before the Thompson Warriors willed themselves back to not only take the lead but pull off a 63-49 win.
With that win, the Warriors were able to claim the No. 2 seed in the region, which allows them to host the Huskies again this time around.
If you look back at that game and the game plan coming into the week, Thompson and head coach Mark Freeman wanted to control the game on the ground, which the Warriors were unable to do early because of the quick four-touchdown deficit.
After finally inching itself back into the game, Thompson was able to go back to that game plan, which led to running back Shadrick Byrd having 207 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries, while quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa added 157 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground in addition to his 264 passing yards and two touchdown passes through the air.
The majority of that total came from the midway point of the second quarter on, and much of it in the second half alone. The Warriors also had chances early in the game, but failed to convert on two red zone trips.
All of that leads you to think this Thompson team has figured out ways to exploit a less than stellar Hewitt-Trussville defense that is giving up 26.9 points per game and has given up a combined 104 points in its last two games.
The problem for the Warriors is they are on the winning end going into a rematch game, and one of the hardest things in football is to beat the same team twice in one season.
Thompson, however, should have all of the energy it needs heading into the game based solely off of what happened a year ago.
During the 2017 regular season, Thompson beat Hoover for the first time in school history, but in the semifinals the Warriors found out the hard way just how difficult it is to beat a team twice, as the Buccaneers came out and dominated Thompson 31-12 to deny the Warriors a trip to the state championship game.
Thompson has to be ready for a very similar game this Friday, as that semifinal matchup a year ago. The Warriors’ goal all season has been to avenge that heartbreak against Hoover and this is a matchup that could end their season eerily similar to the way last year’s ended.
The Huskies already showed they can put up points on the Thompson defense, scoring 28 quickly in the first matchup and 49 total in that game.
The Warriors were able to figure things out defensively in that game, but will have to play much less nervous and much more confident in this game from the start.
Hewitt is coming off a slim 43-41 win against James Clemens that could have easily ended in a loss, but either way it’s a Huskies’ squad that has scored 45 or more in their last three games and 40-plus in eight of their last nine games.
The saving grace for Thompson is that Hewitt’s defense has struggled a lot this season, but the Warriors can’t take that for granted because the Huskies have to feel embarrassed by the way the first game finished, meaning they’ll be out to prove a point this time around.
Thompson’s defense is giving up just 17 points per game, but they’ll have to prove the lessons of this year have truly been learned against this potent offense.
Like the first time, I still think Thompson is the better team, but this time around, they’ll have to play much better in order to pull off a second straight win in such a short span of time.
Thompson 49, Hewitt-Trussville 42
Briarwood at Vigor
It’s been an interesting and challenging year at times for the Briarwood Christian Lions, but with a win this Friday against No. 2 ranked 10-1 Vigor, the Lions can put to rest any concern or doubt people have about this team winning a state championship.
At times, it has been tough to sustain confidence throughout the season, specifically on offense with the lack of consistency at the quarterback position, but to this point running backs J.R. Tran-Reno and Luke Prewett have helped the Lions to a 9-2 record.
Those two losses have come to 6A No. 4 Hartselle, 14-7 in overtime, and 5A No. 4 Ramsay, 21-7. Neither was a bad loss, and had the Lions been able to score another touchdown or two on offense, the defense had done enough to win the game.
This week, the challenges will continue against No. 2 Vigor, whose only loss this season came to 6A Opelika by one point in overtime.
Vigor is a team, like Briarwood, that relies heavily on its defense giving up 6.3 points per game, but unlike the Lions, Vigor is scoring in the 30s at 34.3 points per game.
The Wolves haven’t had a difficult schedule this year, but that doesn’t discount how good they are and that they are likely the better team heading into this matchup.
Briarwood has seemingly turned a slight corner offensively, scoring 30-plus points in four of the last six games, but a huge blow is the possible loss of Prewett at the running back position moving forward due to an ankle injury suffered against Valley at the beginning of the second half of the Lions’ first-round matchup.
With the possibility of him being out, the Lions will have to step up even more on defense and hope that side of the ball can force turnovers to somehow pull off the upset.
While Briarwood gave up their most points this season last week against Valley in a 42-28 victory, it’s a unit that has given up just 9.7 points per game this season and is extremely good at forcing interceptions and blocked kicks.
The Lions’ defense has been good enough to keep them in every game, and led to a huge victory against an 8-1 Hueytown team in the final week of the regular season.
I think the defense will do its job again this week to at least give Briarwood a chance, but this is a legitimate Vigor team that can win a state championship.
Briarwood will have to take chances offensively, which means Jonah Carroll need to feel comfortable in the pocket behind his offensive line, and go through his check downs to make the proper throws. It’s a lot to put on the young quarterback, but success at that position is paramount this week.
Briarwood 14, Vigor 21