Thompson off to 6th straight 2-0 start after win against Sparkman

By SETH HAGAN | Special to the Reporter

HARVEST – After an inconsistent opening game, the Thompson defense started to round into form during the second week of the season.

The Warriors forced three turnovers on fourth down, notched a safety and collected 13 tackles for loss in their first road game of the 2020 season to pull help the team pull away from the Sparkman Senators for a 39-7 road win on Saturday, Aug. 29.

After a 23-yard field goal by Trevor Hard, the Warrior defense forced the Senators to punt on their next possession, but the snap was bobbled and Thompson mobbed the kicker immediately in the end zone to secure the safety and a rare 5-0 lead.

Receiver Ryan Peppins took advantage of the field position on kickoff and returned the ball 36 yards to Sparkman’s 39-yard line to give Thompson a short field.

Conner Harrell then found J.B. Mitchell on a big strike into the red zone a couple of plays later, and Peppins finished the drive off gassing his man as he flashed behind the formation and dashed for the corner of the end zone as Harrell hit him on a well-timed throw.

After another stop from the defense and a poor punt, Harrell spotted Mitchell again on a crossing route. This time, he took it all the way to the house from 44 yards out. It was one of several big plays for the senior on a career night.

In the first quarter he wrestled away what appeared to be a sure interception to keep a drive alive for the Warriors. Thompson head coach Mark Freeman couldn’t say enough about his leading receiver who piled up a career-high 140 yards on eight receptions—135 of which came in the first half alone.

“He’s a great athlete. JB has a great motor and he plays hard,” he said. “Early in the game he makes a play that could’ve gone either way and just takes the ball from the defensive back. That was a big play for us and JB is just a leader for us. He’s going to have a great year, he works hard and I’m just happy for him.”

After giving up more than 300 yards last week in the opener, Thompson’s defense allowed less than 100 yards in the first half and only 202 for the game.

Following their fourth consecutive stop to start the contest, running back Jarrett Crockett got loose on a couple of receptions and scampered into the end zone for his fourth rushing touchdown of the year. Crockett finished with 51 yards rushing and another 47 receiving.

Now down 26-0, Sparkman head coach LaRon White switched his quarterback and gave his team a spark. Junior Luke Schomberg proved a good substitute for Sparkman and guided the Senators down the field in the final minutes of the first half, tossing a touchdown pass with 12 seconds remaining.

The Warriors’ defense came up big time and again in the second half forcing two turnovers on fourth down in the third quarter. The first of which gave Thompson exceptional field position and led to RB Brandon Franklin’s first touchdown of the year from 20 yards out.

Franklin went on to lead the team in rushing with 83 bruising yards on 10 carries with the gross majority coming after contact.

Cade Golden then came in at quarterback for the Warriors late in the game and sent a nice ball to senior receiver Sam Reynolds for his first score and the game’s final touchdown.

Senior cornerback Gavin Shipman, who committed to Harvard after the game, and sophomore defensive lineman Peter Woods led Thompson on defense. Woods bulldozed his way to 2.5 tackles for loss, including 1.5 sacks, giving him 2.5 on the year.

“He’s a great football player, he’s got great technique, great hands, understands how to play with leverage and he’s instinctive. I’m just blessed and grateful he’s a 10th grader,” Freeman said smiling.

Shipman blocked several passes, added three tackles with one for loss.

“We got on to our secondary for some plays from last week and Gavin responded today very well,” Freeman said. “I thought Gavin had good intensity and he played how he was supposed to play this week.”

Jeremiah Alexander added 3.5 tackles, 1.5 for loss with half a sack, while Jax Van Zandt led the team with 4.5 tackles.

Harrell was steady again at quarterback for Thompson, going 15-for-24 with 209 yards and two touchdowns. Tre Roberson and Sam Reynolds finished with 36 and 25 yards, respectively.

Thompson will return home to begin region play next Friday, Sept 4 as they welcome Tuscaloosa County. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.