Thompson’s historic pace continues in rout of Vestavia Hills

Published 12:07 am Saturday, October 2, 2021

By SETH HAGAN | Special to the Reporter

VESTAVIA HILLS – The night of Oct. 1 was one to remember for the Thompson warriors—and for many reasons. Mark Freeman’s squad won their sixth in a row over Vestavia Hills by the largest margin in the history of the two schools in a 49-7 victory.

In addition to the win and improving to 7-0 overall this season, Thompson quarterback Conner Harrell surpassed 5,000 career passing yards, while his favorite target, Ryan Peppins, surpassed 2,000 receiving yards.

The two combined for a special night as Peppins hauled in 11 catches for a career high 232 yards and three touchdowns, while Harrell had a season high 323 yards passing and accounted for four total touchdowns.

To kick off the game, the two defenses forced three-and-outs on each team’s initial drives, but Thompson’s big night through the air began on its next drive.

Harrell needed just three passes to guide the Warriors down the field 79 yards as he hit Peppins for a 38-yard touchdown to go up 7-0.

Thompson then quickly got the ball back when the defense forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive lineman Peter Woods.

That was the beginning of a big night for the junior. Vestavia forced a three-and-out but, again, Thompson returned the favor after senior Trevor Hardy landed a punt on the Rebels’ 1-yard to flip field position.

After getting the ball back at Vestavia’s 29-yard line, the Warriors put together seven runs in a row, capped off by a 2-yard touchdown from Harrell on the ground.

Vestavia finally answered with a drive keyed by a 53-yard kick return to Thompson’s 37-yard line.

The Rebels still needed nine plays and a fourth down conversion to slice the deficit in half at 14-7.

With 9:45 left in the first half, Thompson answered again as Harrell slung it to Peppins from 37 yards out on the back end of a five-play, 58-yard drive to silence the home crowd.

Then, easily the most incredible play of the night happened.

With 6:13 remaining, Vestavia quarterback Mitchell Townes’ pass ricocheted off a referee, popped back toward the line of scrimmage and into the waiting arms of Woods, who turned and barreled 40-plus yards for a touchdown.

The jaw-dropping play was a back breaker for the Rebels who didn’t muster much offensively after that.

Harrell and Peppins connected again right off the bat in the third quarter for a 55-yard touchdown that saw the senior receiver take a slant route and gas the defense as he angled for the end zone.

The offense then put together a season-high 13-play drive that grinded down what was left of the Rebels’ hopes.

Ahmari Bolden ended the drive with a 1-yard plunge over the goal line with 2:21 remaining in the third quarter.

The defense forced three consecutive three-and-outs to start the second half and turned Vestavia over three more times for a season-high five total in the game.

Woods had a special night for the Warriors with nine tackles, two for loss, a sack and the pick six. Jax Van Zandt also recorded six tackles.

The defense’s final stop on fourth down gave Thompson a 30-yard field for their final touchdown: an 8-yard run by sophomore AJ Green.

Thompson (7-0, 4-0) will return home next week, October 8 to host Gadsden City at 7 p.m. for the first time since the Titans joined Class 7A.