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Thompson Warriors brace for crucial Region 3 football matchup at Spain Park

The Thompson Warriors’ quest for a Class 7A Region 3 championship continues on Friday night against Spain Park. If recent history is any indication – and it probably is – expect a down-to-the-wire finish.

In 2015, Spain Park knocked off the visiting Warriors, 15-14. Last season, the Jaguars left Larry Simmons Stadium with a 17-14 win over the Warriors.

Friday at 7 p.m. at Spain Park, we’ll see if the teams are headed toward another fantastic finish.

For unbeaten Thompson, it is chance to keep pace with Region 3 co-leader Hoover in the standings. Both teams have 4-0 region records with three region games left to play.

For Spain Park, it is a chance to take some pressure off its search for a playoff spot. The Jaguars (4-2 overall, 2-2 Region 3) are currently tied for third place with Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills. Huffman and Oak Mountain are each a game behind those three teams.

Tonight’s game could go a long way clearing up some things within the region. However, once again, Thompson head coach Mark Freeman stresses that taking care of what’s in front of you is the only method of attack.

“In this league, you better take it one week at a time and you better not have any (distractions) on or off the field,” Freeman said.

He’s spent the week working on ways to beat a Spain Park team, whose two losses are by a combined four points. The Jaguars dropped a 51-50 decision Mountain Brook in a game that it took three overtimes to complete and lost, 27-24, to crosstown rival Hoover.

Spain Park is led by senior quarterback Braxton Barker, who is just one of many offensive threats for the Jaguars. His favorite target is Jalen McMillian, who had a pair of touchdown catches in a come-from-behind 35-26 win over Huffman last Friday. The Jaguars also have a dynamic running game, which is led by running backs Jalen Henderson and D’Arie Johnson.

Thompson continued to hum along last week with a 45-14 win at Vestavia Hills. The Warriors also added another thing to worry about for opposing defenses with quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa running for a pair of touchdowns.

In the first five games, Tagovailoa ran the ball a handful of times. One of those resulted in a 5-yard touchdown against Mountain Brook. Most of the time, though, he’s moved the ball with his right arm and let running backs Shadrick Byrd and JoJo Ford handle the bulk of the carries.

On Friday, in the win over Vestavia Hills, he rushed for a 5-yard touchdown early in the game and added a 19-yard scramble for a score in the second half. His longer touchdown run was particularly impressive.

So, will we see more running from the talented junior quarterback?

“As the season goes, he’s going to have to run a little bit,” Freeman said. “We’re getting into those weeks, where he has to run a little bit. He’s not the one who doesn’t want to run. It’s me, not running him. He can run. He’s really good at running zone read, I just haven’t let him do that much.”

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