The Thompson High football team stepped into its bright future on a steamy Monday afternoon when they practiced for the first time in what may be the premier on-campus high school stadium in the state.
“Obviously, we’re so excited and so blessed to be in this facility,” said Thompson head coach Mark Freeman after his team opened up 2018 fall camp with a spirited practice that lasted more than two hours inside the brand new Warrior Stadium. “It’s just something special. We wanted the kids to be able to come up here today and kind of save it until the first day of fall camp. We wanted to get them used to seeing this place and get used to seeing the ball. It’s different in here.”
It was impossible to miss the excitement of the Warrior players as they ran onto the turf field for the first time. It didn’t take long, though, for things to melt into a typical first day of fall camp.
“It was a pretty normal first day,” Freeman said. “What we try to do is get the first day where we have a lot of positives. I don’t like coming out the first day and have a lot of coaches yelling negative (things). Let’s fix the things we did wrong, let’s be really positive. I think we did that. Toward the end, we slowed down, obviously, because it’s warm out here. It was a great first day from building a positive mindset coming into day two.”
Monday was a day for standout quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa to take another step toward staying on the same page with a group of receivers that, at this point, has more potential than game experience. It was a chance for a defense that combines experienced contributors with promising newcomers. It was a day for fundamentals and building blocks for a team looking to take another step further than the 2017 team that finished the regular season unbeaten and advanced to the AHSAA Class 7A semifinals.
Don’t doubt for a minute, though, that it was also a day to celebrate the new home and look forward to the completion of the indoor facility, weight room and locker rooms, which should be done in the coming weeks. Alabaster City Schools Superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers was one of the visitors on hand for Monday’s practice.
“Something we talked to (the players) about was the pride that Dr. Vickers and the board had to build this stadium, to build the school and really do everything,” Freeman said. “We came off a really good year last year in football. We came out here, we have a new facility, a brand new school. It’s just a great time, right now, to be in Alabaster and be part of this school system. For the superintendent and the board to have the vision to put a facility like this together, it’s big. Facilities don’t win games, but it’s so easy, now, to transition into the weight room, transition into the indoor facility. We still have to block and tackle and do our assignments and fundamentally be sound. But it does help us from a situation where if we do have bad weather, we can go inside and get some stuff done. Everything is on campus, we’ve done a lot of commuting over the last three years.”