Thompson blanks Oxford in dominant opening win

By SETH HAGAN | Special to the Reporter

OXFORD – There was absolutely no stopping the two-time defending state champion Thompson Warriors in their season opener Friday, Aug. 20 as they traveled to Oxford to cap off a home-and-home series between the two state football powerhouses.

The defense didn’t allow a first down in the first half, and the offense needed just nine minutes of game time to score their first six touchdowns en route to a dominant 55-0 shutout win.

The Warriors went to their main playmaker Ryan Peppins right off the bat with a couple of speed sweeps mixed in with some power runs from Brandon Franklin to get Thompson in the red zone.

Ahmari Bolden slipped a block and walked into the end zone after Conner Harrell found him for the easy first score.

Thompson, true to form, did most of its damage through the air before halftime. Harrell needed just nine completions to rack up 179 yards and three touchdowns.

Franklin puched in two touchdowns of his own in the first half, rushing six times for 30 yards. Peppins scored his first touchdown of the year on a pop pass with 12 seconds to go in the first quarter as he rushed to the edge and found the cut back lane to elude defenders for the 21-yard score.

What little adversity the Warriors did face, they handled with ease.

An Oxford defender wrestled away a pass from Harrell for the game’s first turnover, but Thompson’s defense didn’t blink.

The Yellow Jackets finally had the ball in Thompson territory, but came away with nothing in four straight plays, turning it back over to the Warriors.

It was one of seven straight three-and-outs Thompson’s defense forced to start the game. They allowed just 25 yards of offense in the entire first half.

Harrell responded immediately with a 35-yard strike to Jaylen Ward for a 28-0 lead, and the Warriors took a 34-0 advantage into the locker room.

Harrell and Ward connected on another long ball as Ward hauled in 82 yards in the first half to lead the team. The opening half also served as a platform to showcase Thompson’s punt returner, Justin Pegues, who was sensational returning four kicks for 90 yards.

Pegues, who transferred from Spain Park, took one punt back inside Oxford’s 10-yard line and would’ve taken another one to the end zone, but it was called back due to a penalty.

Pegues also caught two passes for 44 yards from the slot. With a big lead and the defense in full control, Thompson ran its starters out for one more series to start the third quarter.

Harrell found Peppins one more time for an 11-yard touchdown that put a cap on both of their performances for the evening.

Harrell finished 11-of-14 for 214 yards and four touchdowns, while Peppins grabbed four receptions for 65 yards and two touchdowns.

The ground game took over for Thompson as they bled clock and showcased their depth at running back.

After rushing for only 47 yards in the first half, the Warriors gashed the Yellow Jackets for 170 after halftime with 83 of those coming from senior running back Lione Cook, who also scored a touchdown.

AJ Green added 75 more yards on 10 rushes.

The defense finished with 11 tackles for loss, allowing just 27 total yards from scrimmage, including a -6 margin in passing yardage.

Jeremiah Alexander lead the defense with seven total tackles, two for loss and 1.5 sacks, while Jake Ivie and Seth Hampton also had big nights.

It’s the Warriors third shutout since Week 5 of last season. The Warriors will play their home opener next Friday, Aug. 27, against Sparkman in a rematch of last year’s 39-7 win.