The Thompson Warriors opened the Class 7A football playoffs with a thorough 35-0 victory over Huntsville on Friday night at Larry Simmons Stadium.
On a night when the high-powered Thompson offense produced 765 yards in offense, it was the defense grabbing its share of the spotlight. The Warriors limited the Panthers to 163 yards, with 91 coming through the air and 72 on the ground, and kept Huntsville out of the end zone. Safety Myles Brown had a team-high seven tackles with three tackles for loss, defensive tackle Macky McNeal had seven tackles with one tackle for loss and linebacker K.J. Robertson had five tackles and shared in a tackle for loss.
“Very proud of the kids,” said Thompson head coach Mark Freeman after his team improved to 11-0. “This is a big stage to play in. We practiced really well. We weren’t perfect but we played really hard. Our kids are continuing to learn and we just got to keep getting better. We played well defensively and I’m proud of our kids pitching a shutout in the playoffs.”
Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was 36-of-48 for 448 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. His two favorite targets – Ahmad Harris-Edwards and Mo Edwards – had monster efforts as well. Harris-Edwards had 18 catches for 189 yards with a touchdown. Edwards had nine catches for 160 yards with two touchdowns.
The running game also easily ran through the Huntsville defense. Senior JoJo Ford carried the ball six times for 152 yards with a touchdown. Junior Shadrick Byrd carried the 17 times for 89 yards with two touchdowns.
Byrd got Thompson off to a quick start with a 10-yard touchdown run with less than three minutes elapsed in the first quarter. Tagovailoa then went to work. By halftime, he had added scoring tosses of 57 and 20 yards to Edwards and 12 yards to Harris-Edwards. The 20-yard connection to Edwards came with 1:07 left in the half. After Evan McGuire connected on his fourth extra point of the half, the Warriors led 28-0.
The lone touchdown of the second half came on a 14-yard run by Ford with 2:01 left in the third quarter. Thompson went on to complete the impressive shutout for the Warriors first playoff win since beating Florence, 45-10, on Nov. 10, 2006.
Thompson moves on to the Class 7A quarterfinal matchup next Friday against Region 3 rival Mountain Brook. The game will be played at Larry Simmons Stadium. Earlier this season, Thompson beat visiting Mountain Brook, 40-13.