Thompson claims first region championship since 2020 with shutout of Tuscaloosa County

Published 12:06 am Saturday, October 21, 2023

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By STEPHEN DAWKINS | Special to the Reporter

ALABASTER – During their historic run, region championships have been harder to come by for the Thompson Warriors than state championships, of which they’ve won four straight.

THS added one of those region titles—its first since 2020—to its trophy case with Friday, Oct. 20’s 39-0 win over Tuscaloosa County.

The visiting Wildcats (4-4 overall, 2-4 in Class 7A, Region 3 play) kept it close in the first half with their ball control offense, but second-ranked Thompson (7-1, 6-0) broke the game open early in the second half and cruised to the win.

“That win secured the region for us,” Thompson coach Mark Freeman said. “I was proud of our kids—we haven’t done that in a while.”

TCHS took possession first and converted two third downs and one fourth down to keep the sticks and clock moving—and keep the explosive Thompson offense on the sidelines.

First, it was quarterback Braeden Smith connecting with Quilen Hale for a first down on third-and-long. Then, CJ Hutchins took a toss to his left and found enough room for a first down on fourth-and-two. Hutchins also ran for about 15 yards on a third-and-three to get the Wildcats into scoring position.

But a snap over the quarterback’s head put them into a hole they couldn’t get out of, and they punted it away.

AJ Green took the handoff on Thompson’s first play from scrimmage, at the 12-yard line, and ran all the way to the 33. Green picked up a first down on a fourth down play to extend the drive.

THS was stopped short on another fourth down play later in the drive, but Tuscaloosa County was flagged for too many men on the field.

Michael Dujon capped off the drive with a three-yard touchdown run with 11:15 on the clock in the second quarter, but the point-after try was blocked, leaving the score at 6-0.

Tuscaloosa County took over and once again set to work draining the clock with a couple of first downs.

This time, however, it was Thompson defensive back Anquon Fegans who ended the threat, jumping the receiver’s route on fourth-and-five for the interception, which he returned 62 yards for a touchdown.

After the teams traded a few punts, THS took over on its own 38-yard line with 56 seconds left in the first half. A successful screen pass to Deuce Oliver and a pass interference call against the Wildcats got the hosts into scoring position.

Time had apparently expired on an incomplete pass, with the Tuscaloosa County sideline emptying for intermission, but the officials decided there was still time left for Thompson to attempt a field goal.

It didn’t matter in the end, as the kick was short.

If the Wildcats took Thompson out of its rhythm in the first half with their ball control approach, the Warriors imposed their will in the third quarter. Just seconds in, Green found a crease going right and outran the defense down the sidelines all the way for a 72-yard touchdown run. The extra point was no good.

Fegans then recorded his second interception of the night, and THS capitalized on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Trent Seaborn to Colben Landrew.

A three-and-out by the TCHS offense led to another Thompson touchdown, this time a 29-yard pass from Zach Sims to Oliver.

John Alan McGuire added the point-after, and just like that, the Warriors had blown it open, leading 32-0 about halfway through the third quarter.

Late in the third, Thompson took over possession on the visitors’ 35-yard line. Sims kept it and ran for a first down on fourth-and-one from the TCHS 15. Then on another fourth down play, this one from the seven-yard line, Sims faked a handoff and threw over the middle to Landrew for the game’s final touchdown.

After the game, Freeman said that while in the first half, the Wildcats were able to extend drives, the Warriors contained the visitors in the second half, which allowed his team to score more points and seal the game.

“There were times on third down we should have gotten off the field,” Freeman said. “Second half, we did a lot better job.”

Thompson outgunned the Wildcats 317 yards to 193, even though Tuscaloosa County held the ball for almost twice as long, 30:57 to 16:47.

Green ran for 125 yards on 10 attempts, while Seaborn completed 10 passes in 14 attempts for 103 yards.

His favorite target was Oliver, who had seven catches for 71 yards. Landrew added three receptions for 50 yards, and Tymir Robinson had 29 yards on three catches.

Kaleb Harris led the Thompson defense with seven tackles, while Chance Strown added four stops and Noah Hicks had three.

The Warriors have one more regular season game, at Hoover on Friday, Oct. 27, and then the playoffs.