Warriors Jump Oxford in First Half, Cruise to Win in 2nd Annual Go Gold Bowl
Mark Freeman’s team has been preparing for a day they knew may never come. But when Saturday, August 22 finally arrived, the Warriors were ready.
After an offseason of uncertainty, Thompson jumped all over the Oxford Yellowjackets in the first half and used a balanced attack on offense to keep the reigning 6A state champs at bay for a convincing 56-34 victory in the Go Gold Bowl to open the season at Warrior Stadium.
Thompson’s defense took center stage in the outset and turned the Yellowjackets over on downs on the very first drive. Keith Etheredge opted to go for it on 4th and one on his own 30 yard line, but several Warriors broke through the line of scrimmage to snuff the play and give the offense a short field to start.
A few plays later senior running back Jarrett Crockett rumbled in for his first touchdown from eight yards out with only three minutes gone in the first quarter. Crockett’s presence in the running game took the pressure off first year starter Connor Harrell at quarterback who found his rhythm and guided the offense well as the night wore on.
A three-and-out for the defense on the next possession gave the Warriors great field position again on their next drive where they essentially scored three different times. Twice touchdown passes to Sam Reynolds were called back due to penalties, but Harrell found Tre Roberson on a beautiful pass a couple of plays later for 28 yard score to put Thompson up 14. Roberson was Harrell’s top target with eight receptions on the night—a career high.
Thompson would add another stop and a TD before the half as Harrell pulled the ball on a zone read and spun into the end zone for his first rushing score of the season. An excellent 38 yard throw and over the shoulder catch by senior JB Mitchell set the Warriors up in the red zone.
Down 21-0, Oxford proved why they were the 6A champs and continued to fight. QB Trey Higgins found Rok Taylor for a 49 yard TD to get the Yellowjackets started and almost single-handedly kept Oxford in the game running for 81 yards and throwing for 132 more and three touchdowns in the first half.
But for every Oxford score the Warriors produced an answer. Jarrett Crockett’s first half was simply amazing as the back piled up 115 yards on just 12 carries and three touchdowns and added a 30 yard TD reception to boot. However, it was the final drive of the half and touchdown that elated the Warrior faithful just before halftime.
Trey Higgins connected with Bakari Dailey for an 11 yard score to draw Oxford within 35-21 with just 31 seconds remaining in the half.
But that was still too much time for the Warriors.
Ryan Peppins’ electric return on the ensuing kickoff sparked the final drive as Peppins was nearly downed on his own 20, but somehow emerged from the pile of defenders and raced up the sideline for 40 more yards and into Oxford territory. Peppins would step in again on a screen pass and take it another 25 yards to set up Crockett’s final eight yard score with one second and change remaining. The late drive was a huge momentum shift and an absolute backbreaker to Oxford’s hopes of a comeback.
Higgins’ 13 yard TD run with 6:50 remaining in the third quarter brought the Yellowjackets as close as they would get at 42-28. Connor Harrell took over from there leading two more long TD drives that left no doubt. He would add his second rushing TD on the next drive and found JB Mitchell on a fantastic fade pass into the right corner of the end zone for Thomson’s final score. Mitchell led all receivers with 93 yards on the night on five receptions.
The junior QB finished his debut an efficient 18 of 25 passing for 269 yards and three TDs adding 35 more on the ground with two scores. Freeman’s offense finished with 495 yards of total offense and spread it around evenly with 226 yards rushing on 42 carries.
Ryan Peppins finished with two catches for 45 yards, but made his mark on special teams replacing the departed Michael Pettway. Peppins added a big return in the second half to match his momentum shifting return in the first. He would finish with 90 yards total on three returns.
Sam Reynolds has a couple catches for 12 yards and was a definitely a focus all night for Oxford’s talented secondary. Junior RB Brandon Franklin also contributed with 13 carries for 52 yards as he pounded the rock and milked the clock for Thompson late in the game as rain sent many fans running for their cars with the game in hand.
Junior linebacker Jeremiah Alexander led the Warriors with four tackles and two for loss. Jake Ivie played well off the bench at LB as well with three tackles and two for loss.
The Warriors will head out on the road for the first time in 2020 as they meet the Sparkman Senators this Saturday, August 29 with kickoff slated for 7 p.m.