Thompson offense misses opportunities in loss to Hoover, shifts focus to playoffs

Published 10:50 pm Friday, October 21, 2022

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Missed opportunities in the first half turned into a stalemate in the second half as the No. 1 Thompson Warriors never could find an offensive rhythm against No. 2 Hoover in a battle for the Class 7A, Region 3 Championship at Warrior Stadium on Friday, Oct. 21.

Thompson failed to score inside the red zone on three different occasions throughout the night, and a late safety put a low-scoring game out of reach as the Bucs claimed the region title for the second year by shutting out the Warriors for the first time since 2016 in a 9-0 victory.

“This game, we were in this same situation a year ago, and you can’t get in the red zone in these games and not perform,” head coach Mark Freeman said after the loss. “We got in the red zone twice in the first half, no points, we block a punt down here, we don’t do what we have to to get in the end zone. In two phases of the game, we played well enough to win. Where we didn’t play well enough to win was on my end of the ball—offensively. There’s a lot of points, when they watch the film, there’s a lot of opportunities we didn’t take advantage of.”

In a first half that felt like it deserved more points than a combined seven, both defenses stepped up with big plays when it mattered to keep the game tightly-contested through two quarters of play.

Thompson drove into Hoover territory four times in the half, but three turnovers on downs and one interception on second-and-goal from the 11 became costly in preventing scores.

As for the Bucs, they capitalized on good field position to start the game by going 54 yards in 10 plays with LaMarion McCammon running in from 1-yard out to make it 7-0 with 3:34 left in the first quarter.

Thompson then turned it over on downs again on the ensuing drive, while Hoover eventually was forced to punt following another nine plays on its next drive.

The Warriors looked poised to even the score with a nine-play drive that featured runs of 6, 5, 17, 2 and 23 from AJ Green, in addition to a 17-yard run from Zach Sims.

However, after earning first-and-goal from the 6-yard line, a false start pushed them back. Then, after running all the way down the field, an incompletion was followed by an interception in the end zone to keep the Bucs in front.

The Bucs then looked like they were about to add to their lead just before the half, but following a long run from McCammon, he fumbled, and the Warriors recovered.

Thompson again looked poised to score after Trent Seaborn hit Bo Jones for 32 yards, but after two incompletions, a sack and a pass short of the first down, the Warriors again turned it over on downs, creating a 7-0 deficit at the half.

Green finished with 95 yards in the half on 14 carries, but the Warriors never could capitalize by punching the ball into the end zone.

In the second half, Thompson’s defense continued to do its part to give the Warriors a chance.

The forced a three-and-out on Hoover’s first drive and then blocked the punt to set up first-and-goal from the 8-yard line.

Green ran two times for 4 yards to set up third-and-goal from the 4-yard line, then, an incompletion on third down forced Thompson into a decision to kick the field goal.

The attempt, however, hit the upright and clanged to the right in a moment that summed up the night for the Warriors.

“In a game like this, you know it’s going to be a defensive battle,” Freeman said. “Everybody and their brother knew it was going to be a defensive battle, so when you get in the red zone three times, you block a punt in the second half and don’t get points, you’re not going to win many of those games.”

And that remained the case the rest of the way. After another three-and-out by Thompson’s defense, the Warriors got back into Hoover territory behind several big runs.

The Warriors eventually found themselves in third-and-6 from the Hoover 31-yard line, but an interception halted another drive, as the Bucs returned it back to the 18-yard line of Thompson.

The Bucs went backwards due to penalties and another strong defensive stand from Thompson, but that flipped field position the remainder of the night, as the Warriors ended up getting a safety and didn’t cross midfield again until the final minute.

“This is not the first time this year we haven’t taken advantage of (opportunities on offense),” Freeman said. “We’re a football team that’s trying to get ourselves better every week, and we will be better.”

Thompson’s defense only allowed 136 yards of offense, while the Warriors totaled 300, but two turnovers and missed opportunities made the difference.

Green led Thompson’s offense with 119 yards on 21 carries, while Seaborn led the Warriors in the passing attack after finishing 10-16 for 117 yards.

Defensively, Seth Hampton totaled nine tackles, while Kelby Taylor added six. Peter Woods, Jake Ivie and Hayden McDonald all finished with at least four tackles.

“We were in the same situation last year, and we found a way that next time, and I expect our kids to do the same this time around,” Freeman said “We have to get ready for the first playoff game and take those games one week at a time and see how good we can be following tonight’s loss.”

Thompson will enter the playoffs as the two seed from the region and will be at home in the opening round of the playoffs on Friday, Nov. 4. The Warriors will have an off week next week to prepare.