The 2017 season is already a game old for the Thompson Warriors, but they still went back to training camp last week. The Warriors followed a come-from-behind win over Hapeville Charter with their one and only bye week of the season.
Thompson head coach Mark Freeman put the early pause in game action to good use.
“Last week was, solidly, about us getting better, almost like another training camp,” said Freeman, whose team resumes play on Friday night with a crucial Class 7A Region 3 game against visiting Tuscaloosa County.
Plenty of good things happened in the season-opening win over one of the best prep teams in Georgia. It’s important to remember that fact. Moving forward, though, working on the things that need to be cleaned up is the focus.
“We didn’t play exactly right that first week but we did a lot of good things,” Freeman said. “We need to clean up some things on special teams. We had a good week there. We had to clean up some formation, at the snap, being where we’re supposed to be. Offensive line had to get better. We got to get them better.”
One reason the offensive line got better is the return of Alex Pearman, who missed the opener while recuperating from a broken foot. The 6-foot, 240-pound senior will probably be available for somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 snaps on Friday night.
“Alex just brings a presence to the other kids,” Freeman said. “He’s played with us here, his attitude is great. He is a leader. The kids know Alex is going to fight.”
The Warriors will need that fight on Friday against a Tuscaloosa County defense that is far from predictable.
“They’ll do some base stuff but they make their living bringing pressure to you,” Freeman said. “How we handle that will determine how well we’ll do.”
Warrior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa is capable of picking opposing defenses apart when given time. In the season-opening win, he was 31-of-42 for 329 yards with two touchdowns.
On defense, the Warriors must find a way to slow down Tuscaloosa County running back Fred Evans, who has 281 yards rushing and four touchdowns in two games. Freeman said the Wildcats also have some other “tall, athletic skill players” to go with Evans. The Wildcats are 1-1 on the season with a win over Paul Bryant (27-24) and a loss to Northridge (31-14).
One advantage for the Warriors is they will take the memory of persevering through a tough start to their season opener. Hapeville Charter built a 17-0 lead before Josh Huner’s interception set up a Thompson touchdown late in the first half. After that, the Warriors found a way to win in the second half.
“It helps 100 percent,” Freeman said. “Traditionally here, it gets to 17-0, players put their heads down. They were a good team, with, I hope, as much speed as we’ll see all year. It got to be 17-0 and I kind of forgot it was 17-0. It’s big to come back that first week. Your kids, they can always fall back on that.”