Warriors Stifle Cougars’ 20-Game Winning Streak in Battle of Reigning Champions
Thompson fans may still be waiting to exhale after last night’s classic at Warrior Stadium. A battle of 2021 state champions exceeded the hype, but contrary to popular belief, it would be the defenses that took center stage in the biggest game in the state. Clay-Chalkville entered the night on a 20-game winning streak, but the Warriors stifled the Cougar offense once again on their final drive when Jake Ivie intercepted the first pass with less than a minute left to preserve the 17-14 win.
The defense forced four total turnovers and only took three plays to get their first as Peter Woods recovered a fumble and was taken down at the 14-yard line. Clay-Chalkville would force a field goal miss next but the Warriors had set the tone. They clamped down on the Cougars on their next possession as well for a three-and-out to get the ball back to the offense.
Zach Sims hit Korbyn Williams on back-to-back passes to get the first down and open up the run game. Two plays later, AJ Green galloped 56 yards for the game’s first score.
The defense turned away Clay’s first five third down attempts and the Cougars didn’t get a first down until the second quarter.
John McGuire’s 35-yard field goal with 10:47 left in the first half gave Thompson a 10-0 advantage. The Cougars’ first six drives netted just 60 yards, but their seventh would be their lucky one.
Three plays got Clay to the Warriors’ 37 yard line, then Kamari McClellan hit Mario Carver who eluded one tackle and dashed to the left side of the end zone to close the deficit to 10-7 with 27 seconds left.
The Warriors’ defense came up big again to begin the half punching loose a fumble on their first play from scrimmage. They would follow that with a three-and-out and an interception from Anquon Fegans on the following two drives to give Thompson great field position at the Cougars’ 46-yard line.
The offense responded instantly with a four-play drive that included a 20-yard reception from Deuce Oliver and a 21-yard touchdown from AJ Green for his second score of the game and a 17-7 lead at the 3:32 mark of the third quarter.
Clay-Chalkville, now in a must score situation, did so on their opening drive of the fourth quarter. Backed up to their own 15-yard line, running back Aaron Osley gave his team a spark. An eight yard run gave the Cougars some breathing room, then Osley fended off several would-be tacklers on the way to a stunning 77-yard rushing touchdown.
Neither offense moved for three straight drives giving Clay possession at their 44-yard line. They worked their way down with ten plays inside the Warriors’ five yard line. Forced into a fourth down with two yards to go, the Cougars opted to go for it but Thompson stuffed their run at the three yard line with minutes remaining.
The Warriors ran down what time they could, but Clay held all their timeouts and took Thompson’s punt at the 34-yard line with seconds to spare.
With the whole stadium on edge, that was when Jake Ivie stepped in to seal the victory with his first interception of the season.
“I’m proud of our kids,” head coach Mark Freeman said after the game. “I’m proud of the way they responded tonight. We had some negative plays that we bounced back from. Good teams will bounce back from negative plays. They played 48 minutes, and that’s a good football team we played. I’m proud of our players and coaches tonight.”
Kelby Taylor led the defense with six tackles while Ivie had three with one for loss and the interception. Jayden Davis had two sacks to lead the team.
AJ Green led the offenses with a season-high 149 rushing yards on 28 attempts with two touchdowns. Zach Sims went 16-23 for 137 yards and managed the game well targeting Deuce Oliver for seven receptions for 63 yards and Korbyn Williams five times for 38 yards.
Thompson will continue their three-game homestand next week against Hewitt-Trussville Friday, Sept 30 at 7:00 p.m.