On a night when the Thompson Warriors produced556 yards in offense, the defense also stole a piece of the spotlight.
Take away one long scoring play and the Warriors defense had one of its best outing of the season in a 40-17 victory over host Spain Park in Class 7A Region 3 play on Friday night.
Spain Park, which has one of the most explosive offenses in Region 3, struggled to get anything going consistently on Friday night. Running back D’Arie Johnson had a 97-yard scoring run in the second quarter but the Jaguars managed just 49 yards on their other 22 carries. Quarterback Braxton Barker threw for 186 yards but completed less than 50 percent of his passes (17-of-35) and was intercepted by Myles Brown and David Douglas Jr. Douglas turned his interception into a 33-yard touchdown.
The Warriors defense also had a fourth-and-short stop in the second half and kept Barker from getting comfortable all night long.
“I’m just proud of our kids, man,” said Thompson head coach Mark Freeman. “They just keep battling (and) they’re resilient. I guess we’ve done a little bit now. But, we want to get better and we just keep getting better.”
Thompson (7-0 overall, 5-0 Region 3) clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2006. But the Warriors want so much more and are on track to get it.
Quarterback Taulia Tagovialoa had another big night, as did receivers Ahmad Harris-Edwards and Mo Edwards. Tagovailoa was 23-of-33 for 296 yards with three touchdown strikes to Harris-Edwards and one interception. Harris-Edwards had 11 catches for 113 yards with scores of 13, 19 and 23 yards. Edwards had four catches for 106 yards and Michael Pettway chipped in with four catches for 35 yards.
However, it wasn’t simply a night when the Warriors threw the ball around the field. The running game produced 260 yards on 39 carries with scoring runs by Shad Byrd and Tagovailoa. Byrd rushed for 142 yards on 17 carries and JoJo Ford had 80 yards on 13 carries.
Freeman praised Tagovailoa for getting the Warriors into the right plays.
“We came in here tonight and almost every snap we had three options,” Freeman said. “I can’t tell you how many times Taulia made really good options. It was like they completely shut down two of them and he would hit the third option. We’re getting there.”
Thompson scored the first 13 points on Friday – both on scoring tosses to Harris-Edwards – and enjoyed a 20-10 lead at halftime. But there was still some frustration because the lead could have been bigger. On the final play of the first half, Tagovailoa threw a long pass toward the end zone. Edwards was able to snag the ball out of the air but was tackled a yard short of the end zone.
The Warriors dominated the second half. Tagovailoa gave the Warriors a 27-10 lead on a 5-yard scoring run with 7:42 left in the third quarter. Douglas, who was playing because of some injuries, padded the lead when he grabbed an errant Barker pass and raced 33 yards to the end zone.
Brown, who played well all night from his safety spot, ended another Spain Park possession with an interception. Harris-Edwards ended the scoring for the Warriors with a 23-yard touchdown reception from Tagovailoa.