Thompson Takes Out Rebels, Advances to Sixth Straight State Semifinal
The Thompson Warriors are headed back to the state semifinals to do battle with the Hoover Buccaneers for the sixth year in a row. The final home game of the 2022 season was a thriller as Thompson welcomed one of the hottest teams in the state, the Vestavia Hills Rebels. Vestavia held a thin 3-0 halftime lead, but great adjustments, a re-emerging run game and an opportunistic defense sealed the deal as the Warriors pulled away late for the 21-12 victory.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Thompson head coach Mark Freeman said about Thompson’s performance in the second-round game. “We had a great week of practice. We had to go into halftime and tell ourselves there’s a second half in football, and that’s why God made two halves. Thank God we came out better in the second half.”
The Rebels came in with a great game plan, stunting the Warriors on defense and playing keep away on offense in the first half.
Thompson was held without a first down going three-and-out on all three of their initial drives. Vestavia, on the other hand, held possession for nearly 20 of the first half’s 24 minutes, running 41 plays in that span.
The Warriors’ defense fought off drive after drive as Vestavia’s plodding, but efficient attack reeled off multiple double digit play drives before halftime. The Rebels’ only scoring drive took an exhausting 19 plays that were extended by several penalties including roughing the kicker on a punt near midfield. A 26-yard field goal with 9:21 remaining in the half gave Vestavia their only lead of the game.
The Rebels were threatening again as precious seconds ticked away before halftime, but a key penalty in the red zone and a stuffed run on third down forced them to settle for a 37-yard field goal they missed as time expired.
As they have the entire season, Thompson’s defense gave the offense an opportunity to respond and they answered the call right away in the second half.
After rushing for just five yards on three attempts before halftime, the Warriors adjusted and rediscovered their run game on the first drive. Running back AJ Green and the offensive line ran six plays of the ten play spurt and into Vestavia territory for the first time of the game. With the Rebel defense drawing close to the line of scrimmage, quarterback Trent Seaborn drilled a pass across the middle to Korbyn Williams who made a leaping, acrobatic catch and held on to the ball even as his feet were cut out from under him inside the five yard line. Two plays later, Green bruised his way into the end zone to put Thompson up 7-6.
Vestavia continued to move the ball on their first possession of the second half and soon worked their way back into Thompson’s red zone. However, as space ran out, the more effective the Warrior defense became stifling the Rebels once again on two incomplete passes to force another field goal. A 27 yarder drew Vestavia within a point, but that was as close as they would get the rest of the way.
Jasiah Ward’s interception on the Rebels’ next possession gave Thompson the ball on the 25-yard line, but Vestavia turned the Warriors away on a fourth down attempt.
Desperate to keep their next drive going, Vestavia opted to go for a fake field goal attempt on their own 35-yard line, but the pass fell well short giving Thompson another shot at on a short field.
This time, they would make the Rebels pay.
On the second play of the drive, running back Michael Dujon rumbled around the left edge with a key block from Jeffrey Kimochu and ran 33 yards with a beautiful cutback at the ten to lose the final defender for the touchdown and a 14-6 lead.
Peyton Lewis was the next member of the Thompson secondary to snag an interception, but the Rebels turned away the Warriors’ next drive in three plays. With five minutes remaining, Vestavia mounted a must-score drive.
A 25-yard pass play on the drive’s first play caused the Thompson defense to play in a prevent coverage and pass plays of nine, ten and 14 yards moved the ball quickly down the field. Quarterback John Paul Head then found his way to the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown to make it 14-12. The Rebels went for the two point conversion, but the jump pass from Head was batted away to preserve the Warriors’ lead.
Vestavia got another quick stop on defense, but muffed the punt reception to give Thompson the ball on the Rebels’ 29 yard line. Again, the Warriors would take advantage of the turnover rushing six straight times with AJ Green busting through from the one yard line 1:32 left in the game.
The extra point made it a two possession game, effectively icing the game, but Kaleb Harris’ third interception of the year left no doubt.
Green would lead the offense for the Warriors with 17 rushing attempts for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Dujon finished with 49 yards and a touchdown on five carries. Trent Seaborn finished 11-19 for 57 yards finding Deuce Oliver for four receptions and 28 yards.
Peter Woods and Jake Ivie Carrie’s the mantle on defense as Woods finished with a team-leading 6.5 tackles including six solo. Ivie had six tackles with two for loss. Jasiah Ward also added three tackles with two for loss and his second interception of the season. Peyton Lewis’ interception was also his second of the season.
The win sets up the sixth straight meeting with Hoover for the right to advance to the state championship. Thompson has won the meeting four consecutive years. The game will take place at the Hoover Met on Friday, Nov 18 at 7 p.m.