On Friday night, the Thompson High football team welcomes Mountain Brook to Larry Simmons Stadium the second time this season. While the stakes are higher – much higher – this time, Thompson head coach Mark Freeman teaches his team to approach it the same way they have every other game day this season.
“The thing is, if they really believe what we’ve told them all year, this is the next Friday night,” said Freeman, whose team is 11-0. “It’s not necessarily the second time around against Mountain Brook. Every single Friday night holds something different, another opportunity for something for you to get better, for you to do things that separate you from everybody else. I think, what they’ve done really well the whole year is getting ready for what we ask them to do on Friday.”
With that being said, there is plenty at stake when Thompson plays host to Mountain Brook in a Class 7A quarterfinal matchup, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. The winner moves one game closer to the 7A state championship. The loser turns in their equipment.
That wasn’t the case on Sept. 15 when the Warriors jumped on Mountain Brook early, scored the first 40 points of the game and ran away with a 40-13 victory that was more thorough than the score indicated. Thompson had 510 yards on 55 offensive plays with 256 coming through the air and 254 coming on the ground. Mountain Brook managed 311 yards with the majority of that coming after the outcome was long decided.
However, nothing that happened on that night accounts for any points in Friday’s game.
“I think they are really good,” Freeman said of Chris Yeager’s Mountain Brook team. “They’re real prepared and have been for years. You got to be ready to play and not make mistakes against them.”
Mountain Brook finished third in Class 7A Region 3 and advanced into the quarterfinals with a 23-22 win at Bob Jones in the first round. In that game, however, it appears that the Spartans lost running backs Harold Joiner, a four-star prospect, and A.J. Gates to injuries. Yeager told Al.com this week that neither running back will play but Freeman said he continued to prepare for both.
“We’re kind of going on a normal week and preparing as though they’re there,” Freeman said. “I hate it for the two kids, if they’re not.”
Quarterback Hamp Sisson has been the key to the offense all along, according to Freeman.
“Offensively, the quarterback has done a great job for a number of years,” Freeman said. “He’s very smart and he’s a team leader. They start everything with their quarterback.”
Mountain Brook certainly will have to change some things, at least offensively, without the running backs. That just part of the guessing game this week, really for both coaching staffs facing each other for a second time in a season.
“I think you might look at some situations (to change),” Freeman said. “And you look at, what do I think they might be looking for? What adjustments will they make? As a head coach, I have to. I talked to our coordinators Sunday about doing what we do. You’ve got to think, if somebody is doing something different with three or four days of work, how good are they at it?
I just feel like you’ve got to stop somebody’s best stuff. If they start digging in the drawer down there, then we’ll have to adjust.”