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Thompson Warriors brace for tough Region 3 challenge against Oak Mountain

Turning the page from the previous Friday, whether it ended in a good or bad way, is what high school football teams are asked to do on a regular basis.

The Thompson Warriors are fresh off a great evening this past Friday. However, other than the film work completed last weekend, Thompson head coach Mark Freeman and his coaching staff haven’t mentioned anything about the dominating 40-13 victory over Mountain Brook to the players this week. Instead, it’s on to another difficult Class 7A Region 3 tussle, this time on the road against Oak Mountain on Friday at 7 p.m. at Heardmont Park.

“After about 24 hours, like I told the kids in the locker room, ‘7 o’clock tomorrow night, you’ve got to forget it,” Freeman said. “If you win the game or you lose the game, you’ve got another one. The mistakes you did in the game have got to be corrected and the good things have to be expanded on. I think our guys do a good job of focusing on the day to get better and getting ready to play that next opponent. I think we’ve sold that to our kids.”

The next one, in this case, is against an Oak Mountain team that began the season with three wins before dropping a 7-0 Region 3 decision to Vestavia Hills last Friday. Oak Mountain’s victories came over Chelsea (21-10), Hillcrest (28-27) and Region 3 member Huffman (31-0).

Freeman is impressed with Oak Mountain after several days of film work and preparation.

“They’re playing better on defense than they have in the past years,” Freeman said. “They’re not schematically a whole lot different, I think their players are getting a lot better.”

Perhaps what worries Freeman the most, however, comes on the other side of the ball. Oak Mountain runs an option attack that is difficult to prepare for and defend.

“This is the Georgia Tech week,” Freeman said, comparing Oak Mountain’s style to what Georgia Tech does on offense with its spread option attack. “This is the week we’re going to get cut (blocked). This is the week that all the stuff that you teach your kids – flow to the ball, be aggressive – you’ve got to put the brakes on. You got to come back, do what you do and worry about your yard, not the neighbors’ yard.”

In other words, it’s all about assignment defense. Don’t do that and the Oak Mountain offense is capable of not only consistently moving the chains, but also scoring plenty of points.

“The hardest part if getting our scout team to simulate it,” Freeman said. “You have to take a couple days in practice to get your kids full speed on down blocking, getting off cut (blocks), staying on the dive and pitch, (watching the) quarterback. It’s just a tough week to get ready for.”

What can’t happen, Freeman said, is the defense allowing Oak Mountain to play keep away with the football. To be successful on Friday, the Warriors needs to have the offense on the field.

“The thing you worry about, as a head coach, is getting off the field (on defense),” Freeman said. “We talked about, if we can limit them getting first downs, then we’re going to be fine. What you can’t do, is let them get it and staying on the field. One thing we’ve haven’t been good at this year is third and long. You’re not going to win games if you can’t get off the field on third down. We’ve got to stop them. We can’t let them get six-minute drives, even if they don’t score. We’ve got to have the ball.”

That means that the Thompson defense, which is coming off a marvelous effort against Mountain Brook, will be in the spotlight. Controlling the line of scrimmage, with Macky McNeal, John Eric Mizell and the other linemen stopping up things in the middle, and freeing an outstanding group of linebackers to make plays will be a key.

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