Warriors Shut Down Sparkman in Home Opener
It was déjà vu all over again for the Thompson Warriors, but merely in a different location. The defense pitched its second straight shutout Friday, August 27 to begin the 2021 season and the offense put 55 points on the scoreboard again to put away the visiting Sparkman Senators 55-0 to run their record to 2-0.
Sparkman’s offense fared only slightly better than Oxford did last week, but despite moving the ball the Thompson defense made big plays all night. Senior linebacker Nate Riddle was the first as his sack ended the Senators first drive.
Receiver Justin Pegues had another great all-around night and his punt return gave Thompson’s offense a short field they wouldn’t use for long. On the first play senior Ryan Peppins broke loose and darted up the left sideline settling perfectly under a 39 yard pass from Conner Harrell for the game’s first score.
The Senators gained a couple of first downs on the next drive but another sack on third down—this time from Jeremiah Alexander—put an end to the series.
Another short field for the Warriors turned into another quick score for Mark Freeman’s offense. This time, flushed from the pocket, Harrell made a perfect running toss to senior Jaylen Ward who tiptoed through the right corner of the end zone for the touchdown.
Thompson’s defense would surrender only 54 yards on 33 plays in the first half, racking up six tackles for loss and three sacks before the break.
Harrell would connect with Peppins twice more in the half along with Justin Pegues on a 12 yard pass to close out the first quarter. The senior quarterback did most of his damage in the first half going 11-15 for 185 yards and five touchdowns—including the 50th of his career at Thompson. Many were aided by the defense and excellent field position as Thompson’s touchdown drives averaged less than 40 yards each.
The second half’s script followed much of last week’s as well with the defense forcing the Senators into long drives bereft of big, chunk yardage plays while the offense was able to lean on the run game and drain the game clock.
Justin Pegues had three catches for 53 yards and a touchdown in the first half and nearly equaled that total on his biggest play of the night turning a short pass into a 51 yard TD on the second half’s first drive. It was undoubtedly the highlight of the night as Pegues juked multiple defenders and shed others on his way to the end zone. He would finish with a game-high six receptions for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
The score gave Harrell his sixth TD pass to end his night as he finished 15-20 for 270 yards. Ryan Peppins caught five passes for 69 yards and a game-high three touchdowns including the 25th of his career at Thompson. Jaylen Ward finished with two receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown.
The offense’s second unit struggled with penalties initially, but got their rhythm and opened huge holes for AJ Green and Lione Cook the rest of the night. Green needed just seven runs to top the century mark and capped off the night with a huge 42 yard TD run with seconds remaining in the game.
Ahamri Bolden rushed five times for 43 yards, Brandon Franklin rushed six times for 30 yards and Cook rushed eight times for 30 yards and a touchdown.
Jeremiah Alexander led the defense again with three tackles, two for loss and a sack. Senior linebacker Jax Van Zandt led the team in tackles with eight and a tackle for loss while fellow senior LB Nate Riddle came up with a sack and a fumble recovery. Senior linebacker Kendall Franklin also added seven tackles with one for loss.
Thompson will head back out on the road next week as they begin region play at Tuscaloosa County Friday, September 3 with kickoff at 7 p.m.