Warriors Route Hoover, Advance to Fourth Straight State Championship
Revenge never tasted so sweet.
Less than a month after the Hoover Buccaneers ended Thompson’s 27 game win streak and stole the top spot in Class 7A, The Thompson Warriors returned to the Met and finished what they started.
The Warriors’ vaunted defense turned perhaps their greatest performance of the season and Thompson’s stars shined the brightest in the biggest game of the year in an emphatic 35-10 road victory that left no doubt.
Thompson won the coin toss and made no bones about the point they came to prove as the defense took the field. Both defenses forced three-and-outs, but the Bucs appeared to make good on their second drive. However, moving into the red zone the Warriors bowed up, Hoover had to take their shot at a 27 yard field goal and the attempt was a frozen rope that careened low and left of the uprights.
With the ball at Hoover’s 20 yard line, Thompson began to hit their stride. After a few inside runs from Justin Pegues, Conner Harrell pulled the ball on the zone read and raced up the left sideline for 42 yards deep into Hoover territory. A couple more runs into the end zone set up the Bucs for a perfect screen pass as they blitzed on Harrell who calmly lofted a pass to Pegues for a 13 yard touchdown.
Another three-and-out featuring a sack from Jeremiah Alexander gave the ball back to the Warriors who would capitalize again. Another eight play drive rendered the same result as Harrell hit Jaylen Ward for a key third down conversion and connected with Ryan Peppins five plays later on a money ball in the right corner of the end zone for a 14-0 lead.
The teams traded three-and-outs again, but Thompson forced their third in a row off a sack from Peter Woods who was unstoppable all night.
A shanked punt gave the Warriors’ offense the ball at the Hoover 45 and it wouldn’t take long for them to take advantage. On the second play Peppins got behind the defense with Hoover played the run and dashed wide open for a 42 yard TD from Harrell to blow the game wide open, 21-0.
Hoover’s starting quarterback Bennett Meredith exited the game in the second quarter and did not return. Senior Evan Reeder replaced Meredith and played well in his stead, but the deficit proved too much. Reeder found a wide open RJ Hamilton to get the Bucs down the field and got inside the Warrior red zone, but had to kick a 27 yard field goal as the clock expired to make it 21-3 at halftime.
The Warriors, sensing the moment, pounced immediately after the break. Two double digit runs from Pegues and Brandon Franklin led to yet another incredible throw from Harrell who put it right in Peppins’ bread basket for a 29 yard score and a 28-3.
The Thompson defense would have the final say as Hoover began to drive into Warrior territory, but Peter Woods got loose on the blindside and clobbered Reeder from behind popping the ball into the air landing safely in the hands of Jeremiah Alexander who sprinted 60 plus yards for a pick six and the final nail in Hoover’s coffin. It was Alexander’s second TD of his career and the seventh TD the defense has scored in 2021.
Every play after that was a mere formality as the defense would turn the Bucs over three more times on downs and surrender one touchdown with 35 seconds left in the ballgame.
Conner Harrell finished 11-12 for 142 yards, four touchdowns and 39 yards rushing in his return to the Met after a thumb injury sidelined him for the second half of the teams’ regular season matchup. Ryan Peppins accounted for 121 of those yards on six receptions scoring three touchdowns. His 21 TD receptions this season are a Thompson school record.
Justin Pegues carved out 55 yards on the ground to lead the team adding the 13 yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. Brandon Franklin added 31 yards on seven carries.
Jax Van Zandt led the defense with 5.5 tackles, 1.5 for loss with half a sack. Peter Woods finished with 3.5 tackles for loss and three sacks while Tony Mitchell and Kaleb Thompson added five and four tackles, respectively. Alexander also tallied two sacks and the interceptions for a touchdown.
The win advances Thompson to their fourth straight state championship appearance as the two-time defending state champions. The Warriors will face a familiar foe in Central-Phenix City who they met in those first two championship games with the schools splitting the two matchups. The Class 7A championship will take place at Birmingham’s Protective Stadium for the first time ever Wednesday, December 1 at 7 p.m.