Dethroned: Thompson downs No. 1 Hoover for 3rd time in last 5 meetings

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

ALABASTER – Flash back three seasons ago, and the Thompson Warriors entered the season never having beaten the Hoover Buccaneers, now fast forward to 2019, and the Warriors have now beaten the Bucs three times in the last five games after overcoming a 17-0 deficit to down the No. 1 team in the state 48-30 in front of the home crowd on Friday, Sept. 6.

Thompson trailed 17-0 early in the second half and trailed 30-21 with 5:42 to play in the second half, but the Warriors went on to outscore Hoover 27-0 the rest of the way behind touchdowns from Jarrett Crockett twice, Mike Pettway and Brandon Franklin.

“We have a lot of young kids,” head coach Mark Freeman said after the win. “You never know until you get tested and that’s a good football team right there. Year in and year out, (Hoover) is who you have to beat. I’m proud of our kids right now.”

 In the early going, Thompson looked like a young team against the physical Hoover offensive line, which led to some big drives and lengthy runs from Ashford and the offense.

On the opening drive of the game, the Bucs used a powerful 12-play drive highlighted by a 15-yard run from Ashford and a 55-yard pass on first-and-28, which set up a short touchdown run from Dylan Pauley for the 7-0 lead with 6:55 remaining in the quarter.

Thompson looked poised to answer after quarterback Sawyer Pate came out and hit four consecutive passes, but an illegal shift on third-and-6 from the Hoover 44-yard line negated a 38-yard pass that would have set up first-and-goal.

Instead, the Warriors had to punt the ball away, which led to another strong drive from the Bucs.

Ashford reeled off a quick 36-yard run on third-and-9, and just a few plays later, he hit Jamari Buye for a 17-yard touchdown pass to put Hoover on top 14-0 with 43 seconds left in the opening quarter.

After a quick three-and-out from the Warriors, Hoover was able to tack on a 33-yard field goal following a 53-yard run from Anthony Hayes, which allowed the Bucs to take a 17-0 lead with 8:44 left in the half.

Then the fireworks started, and momentum shifted.

“They just battled back,” Freeman said. “We told them, all we can do is control ourselves. It was weird because we weren’t slowing them down. I don’t know how, but we got some momentum.”

Thompson got a long kickoff return from Sam Reynolds and went on to score quickly with a powerful 11-yard touchdown run from Pate to put the Warriors on the board, now down 17-7.

On the ensuing Hoover drive, Jeremiah Alexander picked off an Ashford screen pass to set Thompson up with a short field.

Just three plays later, Pate threw a dart to Pettway for a 5-yard touchdown pass to bring Thompson within a field goal at 17-14 with 4:56 left in the quarter.

Thompson’s defense gave up a 30-yard pass on the ensuing drive, but eventually stepped up and held Hoover to a field goal to make the score 20-14.

The Warriors, however, had another quick answer with 48.9 seconds left in the opening half. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Crockett busted up the middle for an 80-yard touchdown that all of a sudden put Thompson on top 21-20 late in the half.

Hoover took advantage of a personal foul on the next drive and picked up a 30-yard touchdown pass to strike back immediately and take a 27-20 lead into the half as the Bucs tried to kill Thompson’s momentum.

Coming out in the second half, the Warriors got the ball first but quickly went three-and-out.

Hoover looked like it was set for another touchdown that would have put the Bucs up by two touchdowns, but instead, the Warriors were able to make plays and hold Hoover to a field goal, which created the 30-21 score with 5:42 to play in the third quarter.

Needing a big score, knowing Hoover’s ability to move the ball, Thompson put together passes of 12, 21 and 20 yards to Reynolds, J.B. Mitchell and Pettway, respectively, before then punching in a 2-yard touchdown from Crockett to cut the deficit to 30-28 with 3:12 left in the third.

On the ensuing drive, the game took a major turn when Hoover quarterback and Ole Miss commit Robby Ashford broke loose for a 17-yard run, but at the end, he started to lose his balance and fumbled the ball. As he reached back to try and save the fumble, he turned his ankle and went down in pain.

Ashford was helped off the field, and arguably the game’s biggest playmaker to that point, his loss was impactful. He tried to tough out one more drive, but eventually left for the game.

Shortly after, Thompson got an interception from Gavin Shipman with 10:09 to play in the game.

Less than three minutes later, Pate hit Pettway for a 33-yard touchdown strike down the visiting sideline to put Thompson back in front for the second time at 34-30 with 7:56 to play.

That’s when the flood gates opened.

The Warriors went on to add a 34-yard touchdown run from Crockett and a 2-yard touchdown run from Franklin, while Hoover had no response with Ashford out of the game and the Thompson defense turning up the pressure.

Thompson went on to close the game out, and for the third time in the last five meetings, the Warriors have beaten Hoover, and now have a two-game win streak for the first time ever against the Bucs.

“Our kids just battled back man,” Freeman said. “This is what this region is about. I respect the crap out of Hoover and what they do. I’m proud of everybody. They worked their tails off this week. A win against this team is always good.”

Pate finished the game 19-of-26 for 194 yards and three touchdowns, while his top target was Pettway with 80 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

Crockett led the ground game with 148 rushing yards with three touchdowns, including that 80-yard touchdown run. Mitchell added 65 receiving yards, while Reynolds posted 42.

Jeremiah Alexander was all over the field, and led the team with seven tackles, while adding three tackles for loss as well.

Thompson is now 3-0 for the second time in the last three years, and will now travel to Oak Mountain next week looking to pick up another region victory.

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.