Big first half lifts No. 1 Thompson in top-2 battle

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

TRUSSVILLE – Early during the 2020 season, the Thompson Warriors have been focused on getting confidence for starting quarterback Conner Harrell, but the junior quarterback has officially taken control of the offense after leading his team to a 35-21 region win at Hewitt-Trussville on Friday, Sept. 18, in front of an ESPNU viewing audience.

Harrell tossed four first-half touchdowns for the Warriors to put them in front 35-14 at the break, then a physical Thompson defense gave up just seven points the rest of the way to close out the win in a battle of top two teams.

“I saw a lot of heart and effort,” Thompson head coach Mark Freeman said. “All week, we talked about our value. What’s our value? You go on the road in this region and get a win, take that win and go, because they all add up. I think we beat a good football team and really played well tonight.”

In the opening half, Harrell and the offense set the tone for the night, scoring on four of their six drives in the first two quarters.

On the opening drive for the Warriors, the offense faced a third-and-9 from the Hewitt 31-yard line, but that was no problem as the junior quarterback hit Tre Roberson for a 31-yard strike and a 7-0 lead.

Early on, the Huskies had answers. The first came on the ensuing drive when Omari Kelly grabbed a 13-yard catch to even the score.

After a scoreless rest of the first quarter, Harrell picked up his second touchdown pass of the night early in the second quarter on a 5-yard touchdown pass to Peppins.

The Warriors then forced one of their many three-and-outs on the next drive to get the ball back.

That’s when Jarrett Crockett started rolling along. The senior running back was questionable entering the game, but he put together some powerful runs and plunged in from 5 yards out to make it 21-7 Thompson.

Hewitt had one more answer on the ensuing drive after a long kickoff return set up a one-play drive on a 25-yard touchdown run from Goodwin.

On the ensuing kickoff, it looked like Hewitt caught a big break after recovering a botched kick, but the Warriors forced one of their three turnover on downs in the half to get the ball back.

From there, it was all Warriors in the half.

Harrell hit Peppins for a 66-yard touchdown strike after Peppins ran straight by the defense for a lofted ball and easy score. Then, in the final minute of the half, Harrell escaped pressure and found a wide open Sam Reynolds for a 36-yard touchdown pass and a 35-14 halftime lead.

In the second half, Hewitt came out and struck on a 68-yard touchdown run to get right back in the game at 35-21 with 3:31 left in the third quarter, but that was the only offensive action in the half.

“We just felt like our defense could play better the second half, so we didn’t want to give them anything in the second half, just get out of here with a win,” Freeman said.

Hewitt had drives that were headed toward scores, but a fumble recovery by E.J. Edwards and an interception by Triston Woody iced the game.

Harrell led the Warriors offensively completing 17 of his 23 passes for 325 yards passing and four touchdowns. His favorite target was Peppins who finished with 136 yards and two touchdowns on six receptions.

Crockett finished his night with 119 yards on 21 carries with one touchdown. Reynolds, Crockett, Roberson and Mitchell all had 36 yards or more receiving with Roberson and Reynolds adding touchdowns.

Jax Van Zandt led Thompson’s defense with 11 tackles and a forced fumble in the final quarter that helped stave off the Huskies. Jeremiah Alexander totaled six tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack, while Woody posted eight tackles. Tony Mitchell also added six tackles and a tackle for loss.

The No. 1 Warriors will now take on another difficult task next week when they host Class 6A No. 1 Mountain Brook. It will mark the second time this year Thompson has played the 6A No. 1 team after beating Oxford 56-34 in the opener.