Semifinals Prediction: Thompson and Hewitt-Trussville battle for Super 7 spot
Published 11:35 pm Sunday, November 19, 2023
By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor
Last Week’s Picks: 4-0
Overall Record: 107-20
Since the season started, both the Thompson Warriors and Hewitt-Trussville Huskies have had one goal in mind: make it to the state championship game for a chance to win the Class 7A crown.
On Black Friday, one of them will fulfill that dream.
The lone game in Shelby County this week figures to be one of the best games of the season as the top two teams from Class 7A, Region 3 battle it out for a spot in the Super 7 on Wednesday, Dec. 6 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
For the Warriors, this is familiar territory. Thompson has made it to the semifinals for seven straight seasons, and every single time, they faced the Hoover Buccaneers in this round and beat them each of the last five years.
That is, until now. Hewitt-Trussville broke that streak by beating Hoover in the second round, and, despite its success in recent years, they are now in the semifinals for the first time since 1996, before the creation of Class 7A.
For each of the last five years, the Huskies have been eliminated by Thompson or Hoover. Now, they have a chance to eliminate both to reach their first state title game since 1992.
However, Thompson has recent success on its side, not just in this round, but against Hewitt-Trussville as well.
The Warriors beat the Huskies 40-14 on Oct. 6 in a game that quickly got out of hand after Thompson found success in the passing game and its defense stifled a high-flying Hewitt offense for its fifth straight win in this series, dating back to 2020.
Even with that lopsided result, consider that Mark Freeman-coached teams tend to play even better in rematches than the first time around. Look no further than last week’s 34-14 win over Vestavia Hills after they beat the Rebels 21-3 in the regular season.
While the Warriors defense allowed for the first time since they played Hewitt-Trussville, the offense made up the difference and posted the second-highest point total that Vestavia had allowed all season, behind, conveniently, Hewitt-Trussville.
All of that should make for a tremendous football game come Friday. These are two teams playing their best ball at the right time and will clash with a shot at a state title on the line. It doesn’t get better than this.
While you could argue that Vestavia Hills posed the bigger threat to Thompson with its stout defense, Hewitt-Trussville’s offensive firepower may make them just as dangerous. Granted, the Huskies defense allows a full touchdown more per game on defense than the Rebels (21.2 vs. 14.4 PPG), but Hewitt outscores Vestavia in offensive points per game 40.3 to 33.0.
Much of that is because of what Peyton Floyd can do in the passing game with his receivers. The reigning 7A Back of the Year has been electric in the air when he is clicking this season, as he was in last week’s 40-7 win over Hoover.
However, Trent Seaborn has proven that he has quite the cannon as well with a plethora of receivers to throw to including Kolby Hearn, Deuce Oliver, Kolben Landrew and Angel Jones. All of them can make plays at any given moment and have different tools to utilize in a variety of situations.
Even with their recent success in the passing game, I think Thompson could easily flip the switch and go for a ball-control attacking style with Michael Dujon and AJ Green to keep Hewitt’s offense off the field and get the defense tired.
The latter is what I expect coach Mark Freeman to try against the Huskies to save the big guns for the right opportunity, but if he decides to go in guns blazing, expect some big numbers from Seaborn and his receivers.
Just like in the first game, though, I think the defense is the ultimate deciding factor. The Warriors have been almost lights out on defense this season, with the unit averaging just 10.2 points allowed, and that includes the 36-point outlier that Clay-Chalkville posted.
Time and time again, we’ve seen that defense wins championships. If this Thompson team is to reach the Super 7, it will be because of a lockdown coverage game by Anquon Fegans and Kaleb Harris while Jayden Davis, Tyler Hicks, Cam Pritchett and the rest of the defense get after Floyd.
It may not be an easy win, but the Warriors have the pieces on both sides of the ball to take care of business and the track record that suggests that they will do so. I’m picking Thompson to pull away and get a shot for a fifth straight state championship. Thompson 35, Hewitt-Trussville 14.
Season stats provided by the Alabama High School Football Historical Society.