Dreaming big is part of what Mark Freeman wants for his Thompson Warriors football program.
“I believe in talking to our kids about our goals,” Freeman said. “I think you’ve got to visualize Bryant-Denny Stadium. I think you’ve got to visualize Jordan Hare. I think you’ve got to visualize the big Jumbotron with your town on it. I’m a dreamer. If I don’t want our kids to dream of being good, I don’t know why we coach. People have different philosophies, but I think you have to talk about the big picture.”
Realizing the dream comes one step – or really one day – at a time is critical. The next step in Thompson’s dream comes when rival Pelham comes to Larry Simmons Stadium for a non-region game that will be part of the Warriors homecoming festivities. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. on Friday.
The unbeaten Warriors, who, at 4-0 overall, are off to their best start in many years, comes in as the No. 3 ranked Class 7A team in the state. Freeman said his team’s confidence grows each week but wants to use that in a positive way.
“Like I preach every day, there is just a small, little measurement between confidence and cocky,” Freeman said. “You’ve got to be in that area (of confidence). The adrenaline flow, that’s important, and your kids have to have that (confident) mindset. They’re starting to see it. When you’re good, you don’t care who you play. When you do what you do and you feel good and you work it, you’ve got a chance. We’re not completely there but the kids are starting to believe, ‘Hey, if we do what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to be pretty good.’”
Pelham also comes in as a confident group. The Panthers are winners of back-to-back games and are 3-2 overall. Both of their losses came to unbeaten teams when the winning points were scored within the final two minutes of the contest. Homewood, the No. 7 ranked team in Class 6A, scored the winning points with 40 seconds left in a 29-22 season-opening victory over the Panthers. Benjamin Russell, the No. 9 ranked team in Class 6A, beat Pelham 35-28 with the winning points coming with just under two minutes left.
Running back Nicholas Blackburn is excellent and quarterback Matthew Rye is also playing well.
Thompson looks to crank up the offense once again. The Warriors haven’t scored less than 40 points in any of the last three games and are averaging 43 points overall. Part of the reason for the success is the Warriors’ ability to take what the defense offers.
Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and receivers Ahmad Harris-Edwards and Mo Edwards spark a passing game that throws for 332 yards per game. Key on that too much, however, and the Warriors can beat a defense on the ground with Shadrick Byrd and JoJo Ford. The Warriors rushed for 254 yards and five touchdowns in a 40-13 win over Mountain Brook.