Thompson’s Freeman named 2018 Coach of the Year

Published 8:34 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

Flash back five seasons ago to 2014 and the Thompson Warriors were coming off an 0-10 season.

Now, fast forward to the year 2018, and Thompson is coming off an 11-2 season featuring the school’s second-ever appearance in a state championship and first since the 1982 season.

While the Warriors were unable to bring a title back home to Alabaster this season, that’s a remarkable turnaround that will be remembered for some time to come and a big reason for that shift in the program’s success is due to head coach Mark Freeman, who has been named the Shelby County Coach of the Year for the second year in a row.

It was a tough award to hand out this season with Briarwood’s Fred Yancey leading the Lions to an impressive season in what became his final year at the helm after announcing his retirement, as well as Montevallo head coach Brandon Wilcox leading the Bulldogs to a strong runner-up finish in their region, but at the end of the day, it was hard to ignore what Freeman did.

In the last two seasons, Thompson is now a combined 23-3 overall with their only three losses coming to Hoover twice and Central-Phenix City in this year’s state championship game.

During that stretch, Thompson beat Hoover twice, once for the first time in school history, and made their two deepest playoff runs in more than 30 years.

Freeman came to Thompson after the 0-10 2014 season and was able to quickly turn the team into a 5-5 team during 2015 before following that up with another 5-5 season that could have just as easily been a 9-1 season with a playoff berth due to several close losses.

Then, in 2017, it all clicked.

While many will point to the addition of quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa as the reason for the success, it was much more than that.

It was also done with several players that had been there with Freeman through the change and turmoil.

While the year before, Tagovailoa would have likely been the difference maker, it was the defense keeping them in games, and that continued moving into the next two seasons.

And despite the loss of two 1,000-plus yard receivers and 90-percent of their defensive production in 2018, the Warriors were able to improve each and every week to earn a trip to the state championship game.

Freeman credits that to the guys who were with him as part of his first freshman-to-senior class.

“This was our first freshman to senior class,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them. We’ve got some of the toughest kids and I can’t say enough about our kids and the way they battled this entire season.”

Freeman has also helped bring winning back to the city of Alabaster and a fan base in need of seeing some success.

“Our community is unreal,” he said. “What has happened here in four years. When you look back at the things that are going to come from this bunch of guys, this group of seniors, I’m so happy for what that means and the standard they have set for our program and our city.”

Now the standard has changed for the Warriors and the future of Thompson football.

While the Warriors will lose their star quarterback next season, as well as their star running back Shadrick Byrd, their top offensive linemen and a couple of top defenders; the younger players now know what the expectation is and they will put in the work because they don’t want to be the team to set the program back again.

Freeman has quickly turned this team into a title-contending team every year, and even with some key departures, they’ll be back in the hunt in 2019.