Thompson overcomes slow start, downs rival Hoover to finish region play perfect

Published 10:55 pm Friday, October 27, 2023

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

HOOVER – Facing fourth-and-12 on their first drive of the second half, the Thompson Warriors lined up near midfield with a 7-3 advantage and went for it.

Head coach Mark Freeman, tired of watching the struggle, made the decision because of his disappointment in the team moving the football, and his frustration in the moment, led to the spark Thompson needed.

Trent Seaborn took the snap, stepped into the pocket and threw a dime down the field to Colben Landrew, who made an adjustment to the ball in the air, caught it as a Hoover defender overplayed it, and ran the rest of the way for a 46-yard touchdown pass that put the Warriors in front 14-3 early in the third quarter.

“I didn’t ask them. It was fourth down, I was sick of watching the way we played so I was going to go for it,” Freeman said. “We happened to make a play. The ball could’ve gone to any of the other five people, but he chose the right guy and we score a touchdown, but I was tired of the way we were playing.”

After that, Thompson defense forced a three-and-out as a kickstart to a big second half on that side of the ball, and the offense wasted no time adding the final blow of the night.

On the exact same play, Seaborn found his favorite target of the night when he hit Landrew for 43 yards this time as he beat his man and then carried him and the ball into the end zone for a 21-3 lead.

Thompson’s defense took over from there, taking the game into the final minute before Hoover scored its only touchdown of the night on a short 1-yard run in the final seconds after hitting a big play the play before. The Bucs added a two-point conversion to create a 21-11 final score.

“It was a win, but it was an ugly, ugly win,” Freeman said. “When you play these games, they’re ready to play and we have to come out ready to play. A win is a win in this region, and we’re blessed and we’re going to enjoy that win and get a couple days of rest and move on.”

With the win, Thompson finished off an undefeated 7-0 region schedule for the first time since 2020, as the Warriors will now head into a bye week before looking to chase down a possible fifth consecutive state championship when the playoffs begin in two weeks. 

A hard-nosed opening half of the game looked like it was going to feature Thompson’s high-powered offense marching up and down the field after a successful first two drives.

After the defense stuffed the Bucs on fourth-and-1 at the Thompson 39-yard line, the Warriors took over and went to work quickly with several big plays that eventually led to a Trent Seaborn 11-yard touchdown pass to Angel Jones for a 7-0 lead in the first 2:11 of the game.

Then, Thompson’s defense forced another quick three-and-out to get the ball right back in the hands of a confident offense after the opening drive.

Seaborn hit Kolby Hearn for a deep bomb of 60 yards that set up first-and-goal at the 5-yard line with the Warriors looking to go up 14-0.

From there, however, the half belonged to Hoover.

Penalties negated two plays from inside the 10 for the Warriors, who eventually settled for a 22-yard field goal attempt that hit the upright and ricocheted away.

Hoover then used a methodical and physical offensive approach from there, either running or getting the quarterback out of the pocket in space.

It led to a strong drive early in the second quarter that also got them inside the 10-yard line, but Thompson’s defense was able to hold strong.

The Warriors held them to field goal attempt that was sent right down the middle to cut into the deficit and make it 7-3 8:34 left in the half.

Thompson then went three-and-out after that, giving it right back to Hoover and sending the defense back on the field.

The Bucs did put together a drive, but they ultimately came up emptyhanded, sending the game into the half with Thompson in front 7-3.

“I told them, mental mistakes and field position,” Freeman said of his speech at the half. “We got good field position the first drive, went right down the field and scored, then we go down here and we’re trying a chip shot field goal and don’t make that. We kick the first two kickoffs out of bounds. Mental mistakes, jumping offsides. We just weren’t mentally prepared to win the football game and that starts with me.”

Ultimately, the Warriors were able to bounce back with the fast start to the second half, while the defense also flipped a switch with a more aggressive drive toward the ball on every play.

“We won the game, we made some plays, I think we got off the field better in the second half and scored some touchdowns, so we got back to where we need to be a little bit,” Freeman said.

Seaborn finished the game 18-of-27 for 260 yards and three touchdowns, while Landrew finished with four receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Hearn added 71 yards on three receptions, while Jones finished with a touchdown and 41 yards on four receptions.

Kaleb Harris led the defense with five tackles, one sack, a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.

Thompson will head into the postseason 8-1 overall with the lone loss a 36-33 game against Clay-Chalkville. The Warriors will host Florence in the opening round, who is 6-4 with three straight wins to end the regular season.