Warriors Build Big Lead, Hold Off Jaguars For Road Region Win
The Thompson Warriors traveled up I-65 again for their second road game of the season and met a worthy adversary in Region 3 opponent Spain Park and their prolific passing attack Friday, Sept 11. The Warriors faced a hostile environment and a Jaguars squad with something to prove, but built a big lead in the second half and weathered a rally from the home team to win 48-35 to move to 4-0 (2-0) in 2020.
The thrilling 134-play contest would see the two region foes rack up over 1,000 yards of total offense and Thompson set a new season high with an eye-popping 668 yards. The home team drew first blood, however, as Spain Park quarterback Bennett Meredith hit Cooper Kelley perfectly in stride on the third play of the game to put the Jags up 7-0.
Spain Park’s Drake Tabor would only allow the Warriors to return one kick and made several big plays during the game. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, that would be their best defense all night as Thompson moved up and down the field effortlessly. Seven plays and 80 yards later QB Connor Harrell trotted into the end zone to tie it up.
The defense forced consecutive three-and-outs the next two possessions and got it to the offense that gashed Spain Park over and over in the first half averaging over ten yards a carry. RB Brandon Franklin shouldered most of the load early on with 95 yards on just nine carries for a new career-high.
Franklin would have to leave the game with an injury, but Sam Reynolds performed admirably in relief rushing for 84 yards on a career night for the senior. His first TD of the night gave the Warriors a 20-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the Jaguars would respond.
Meredith guided his team down the field on a methodical 11-play 59 yard drive to make it a one score game. Thompson nearly made a goal line stand stuffing the run on a zone read play, but Meredith pulled the ball at the last second and walked into the end zone from one yard out.
The Warriors answered swiftly as Reynolds took a pass at the 20, lost his man and followed his blockers before leaving the pack behind as he cut back across the field and into the right corner of the end zone to give Thompson their 27-14 halftime lead with 7:30 to go.
Long drives by both teams ended the half, but neither were able to come away with any points, losing possession on fourth down in the red zone.
With the ball to start the second half, Thompson came out of the break with another long drive going 80 yards on eight plays ending with Sam Reynolds’ third TD of the night on a three yard run. The South Carolina commit would finish with 195 yards of total offense—his best as a Warrior.
In what would prove to be a pattern going forward, the Jaguars would go tit for tat the rest of the way and three minutes later Justin Pegues ran in a one yard TD. Bennett Meredith was very impressive at home standing strong in the pocket and hitting receivers milliseconds before taking big hits from the Thompson pass rush. It would be the Warriors’ first game without a sack since 2019.
If not for Reynolds’ 85 yard TD, Tre Roberson’s next TD would’ve been the play of the game. As Thompson worked their way back into Jaguar territory, Harrell found Roberson on the left side who then juked left and, brushing off several defenders, cut back across the field and followed his blockers into the end zone for a 28 yard TD.
Connor Harrell would tack on another rushing TD from 13 yards out on the next drive giving him two for the game and five total as he passed for 406 yards and rushed for 58 more—both career highs.
Down 48-21 with 11:22 to go in the game, Spain Park didn’t give up. Through a series of events, four of their five touchdown drives began in Thompson territory and they cashed in each one. Zamir Farris had a huge return to put the Jags on the 35 yard line and an interception on the ensuing Warrior possession began their final scoring drive at the 40.
The last bizarre series of plays threw the game’s result into question for a moment as Drake Tabor attempted an onside kick that was called back. Still, the element of surprise hadn’t worn off and Tabor popped a slow dribbler down the middle of the field, falling on the ball exactly ten yards later for a perfectly executed onside recovery.
With the game suddenly hanging in the balance, the Jags threatened again in the red zone. The Warrior defense batted several passes down throughout the night, including three at the line of scrimmage, and sent the house on third down to get the ball out of Meredith’s hands. Heaving a prayer high in the air, the pass fell short and was snatched by Ahmari Bolden who ran it out of the end zone and was tackled at the two yard line.
Thompson was able to run out enough clock on their final possession to seal the win.
Jax Van Zandt led the defense with 6.5 tackles on the night followed by Gavin Shipman with five and two deflected passes. Seniors Kobe Stewart and Karston Haywood finished with five and 4.5 tackles, respectively.
Tre Roberson finished with four receptions for 64 yards and his TD while Ryan Peppins had four as well for 50 yards. Senior Zach Johnson also added a 21 yard TD with his only grab of the night.
The game sets up a #1 vs #2 matchup at Hewitt-Trussville next week, Sept 18 with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.