Thompson rolls past Central 38-22 to win third straight 7A State Championship
Photo Credit: al.com (Mark Almond)
BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA— Last year’s state championship game took everything Thompson had left in the tank to come out with the win. Regardless of winning the state championship with a game winning field goal last season over Auburn 29-28, the Warriors were projected to win yet another championship. They looked like they would do just that; in their first 9 games, they let up no more than 9 points per game. However, the Warriors lost in a close matchup to Hoover towards the end of the regular season. But they met with the Buccaneers in the semifinals, and this time beat them when it mattered to advance to the state championship.
With the chances of a rematch of last year’s championship thriller still possible, instead Thompson would be taking on the Central Red Devils out of Phenix City. The Red Devils, led by cornerback and Cincinnati commit, JQ Hardaway, and junior 4-star wide receiver, Karmello English, were 13-0 coming into the championship game. Thompson proved to be beatable, and the Red Devils were looking to be the second team to accomplish that feat. But Thompson was projected to win the state championship at the beginning of the season for a reason, and they proved why so many had faith in them to end the season.
Thompson’s defense had led the Warriors to victory all season long, and they started to execute right from the beginning of the game, forcing a punt from Central on their opening possession. Quarterback, Conner Harrell, got the Warriors inside the Central 25-yard line, but he was then forced to leave the game due to injury. Sophomore, backup quarterback, Zach Sims, didn’t skip a beat, however, throwing a 25-yard touchdown pass to Deuce Oliver to give Thompson an early 7-0 lead (PAT good). After Central punted again, Sims continued to rise to the occasion, as he found running back, Justin Pegues, for a 20-yard touchdown to give the Warriors a two score lead at the end of the first quarter (PAT good).
The Thompson defense showed why they were one of the best in the country to start the second quarter. Safety, Anquon Fegans, came up with an interception to give the offense the ball at the Central 41-yard line. But the Central defense came right back, recovering a fumble to get the ball back at their own 16-yard line. Thompson answered; a mishandled snap by Central was recovered by Thompson. The Warriors couldn’t get in the end zone, and were forced to settle for a 37-yard field goal.
Conner Harrell came back into the game toward the end of the second quarter, and he picked up right where he left off. The North Carolina Commit found Ryan Peppins for a large gain to the Central 13-yard line. He then found Peppins again for a touchdown to make the score 24-0 heading into halftime (PAT good).
Central made the adjustments needed to start the second half. Quarterback, Caleb Nix, and running back, Jaimel Johnson led the Red Devils all the way inside the Thompson 10-yard line. Nix then capped off the drive with a touchdown pass to Karmello English to put Central on the board, making the score 24-8 92-point conversion good). However, the momentum stopped there. On Central’s next possession, Thompson safety, Trevor Hardy, intercepted a pass from Nix, and Thompson had the ball at their own 15-yard line to end the third quarter.
Harrell got Thompson going once again after both teams traded punts. He found wide receiver, Jaylen Ward, for a deep pass to bring the Warriors to the Central 35-yard line. On the next play, he found Bo Jones to bring the Warriors to the 3-yard line. Harrell then capped off the drive himself, running in the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown to extend Thompson’s lead to 31-8 (PAT good).
Thompson got the ball back at their own 27-yard line with another interception, and Harrell went right back to work. He found Ryan Peppins, who is committed to Utah, once again, this time for a 73-yard touchdown to make the score 38-8 (PAT good).
Despite being down by a large margin with the time running short, Central wouldn’t give up. The Red Devils continued to put points on the board. Caleb Nix reached into the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown to make the score 38-15. On the next possession, Nix found wide receiver, Tommy Griffin Jr., for a 15-yard touchdown, making the score 38-22. However, there just was not enough time left in the game, as Thompson was able to run the clock out, securing the state championship.
Thompson ends their season with a 13-1 record, and has now won 3 straight 7A State Championships. The Warriors have a good amount of talent returning for next season, led by 5-star defensive tackle, Peter Woods. It would be no shock if the Warriors made a run for their 4th straight title. Central, who ends their season with a 13-1 record as well, will also be in that conversation, as the Red Devils will be led by Karmello English next season.