Thompson finds rhythm in strong season-opening win

Published 11:53 pm Friday, August 25, 2023

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

MONTGOMERY – It took some time for the heat to hit the four-time defending Class 7A State Champion Thompson Warriors on Friday, Aug. 25 inside Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl to open the 2023 season, but once it did, they didn’t cool down.

Taking on Opelika in the AHSAA Kick-Off Classic, Thompson started slow early in the game with a scoreless opening quarter against the Bulldogs, but the Warriors followed with a 23-point second quarter to take a 23-7 lead into the half that led to a season-opening win.

Opelika challenged the Warriors into the second half, cutting the deficit to 23-13 at one point, but Thompson pulled away from there for a 44-13 victory.

“We came out rusty a little bit, first game, you know you’re going to do it,” Thompson head coach Mark Freeman said. “Penalties hurt us early. As the game went on, our conditioning, the way we work, it took a toll on them. It was great to open up with a really good 7A football team down here in Montgomery. I’m proud of our kids. They were just resilient and played for four quarters.”

Despite the slow start with a scoreless first quarter, Thompson quickly made up for it with a dominant second quarter that featured 23 points, starting just 46 seconds into the period on a John McGuire field goal.

The Warriors then got the passing game going with freshman quarterback Trent Seaborn completing three consecutive passes of 7, 12 and 46 yards to set up first-and-goal.

Shortly after, Thompson made it 10-0 on a 5-yard touchdown run from AJ Green with 6:43 to play in the opening half.

Opelika responded with a crucial touchdown just before the half to make it 10-7 on a 38-yard touchdown run from Calvin Hughley.

The Bulldogs, however, left too much time on the clock for a dangerous Thompson offense to not only score once, but twice before the break.

The Warriors answered quickly by capitalizing on a long Kaleb Harris kick return when Seaborn completed passes of 36 and 12 yards to Kolby Hearn, the latter of which went for a touchdown to make it 16-10.

On the ensuing Opelika drive, Harris stepped up and grabbed an interception to give Thompson good field position again.

One play later, Seaborn hit Deuce Oliver for a 15-yard touchdown pass to make it 22-7 at the half.

“We came out kind of sluggish,” Oliver said. “We weren’t expecting that because we had such a great summer, but we picked it up. We just weren’t going to deny. We weren’t going to deny anything. We were going to keep going, keep pushing to the end of the finish line, we were going to give it our all. It shows we click together as a team and can come together for a victory.”

That set the tone for the rest of the night.

Opelika did come out and show some life with a touchdown late in the third quarter to make it 23-13, but Michael Dujon was the answer for Thompson from there.

Dujon reeled off several big runs, including touchdown runs of 15 and 11 yards to quickly make it 37-13.

The Warriors then put the cherry on top when Camron Wells capped off a special drive with a 14-yard touchdown run with 1:17 left to play to complete the 44-13 victory.

“I was proud of them,” Freeman said. “The coaches did a great job upstairs tonight. I thought our defense played great. They scored the two touchdowns on us, but I thought we played really good defense and our coaches did a good job preparing them.”

Thompson was led by Seaborn on offense with 246 passing yards on 20-of-26 passing with two touchdowns. Oliver caught one of those touchdowns and had 118 yards on nine receptions, while Hearn added a touchdown as well.

Thompson will now host national power IMG Academy on Thursday, Aug. 31 before turning attention to region play.