The Thompson High football team found a way to survive against visiting Vestavia Hills on Friday night.
In other words, welcome to life in Class 7A Region 3.
The Warriors trailed in the second half for only the second time this season. But a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Taulia Tagovailoa to Kyle Smoak and some big defensive stops down the stretch helped Thompson remain in contention for at least a share of the region crown after a thrilling 21-20 homecoming victory over the Rebels.
“Our team was challenged tonight and we found a way to win,” said Thompson head coach Mark Freeman, whose team improved to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in region play. “It was tough to sweat it out but a great win. I’m proud that our kids persevered.”
The winning touchdown came with 9:10 left when Tagovailoa and Smoak connected on 8-yard scoring pass. However, the Warriors didn’t take the lead until Evan McGuire was successful for the third time on an extra point attempt.
From there, it was the defense that took over. Jalen Bustamante had a huge interception with just under three minutes remaining and the Warriors closed things out with their final stop of the night.
“It’s always great to get a win,” Freeman said. “We played sloppy and dropped some balls tonight. We dealt with a lot of adversity and found a way to win. Give Vestavia credit, they played their tails off. Taulia made some big plays down the stretch and we took advantage of some opportunities late in the game.”
Thompson carried a 14-7 lead into halftime with first half touchdowns coming on a 2-yard run by Jarrett Crockett and a 31-yard pass from Tagovailoa to Michael Pettway.
That lead dissolved in the third quarter when Vestavia Hills received scoring runs from Cooper Bishop (19 yards) and Joshua Silverman (29 yards). However, the Rebels led by just six points after missing the extra point following Silverman’s touchdown run with 7:52 left in the third quarter.
That missed extra point turned out to be the deciding point in the game.
Tagovailoa finished the game 25-of-36 passing for 322 yards with a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions. Shad Byrd had 97 rushing yards and caught seven passes for 52 yards. Pettway grabbed six receptions for 134 yards and Smoak had six catches for 76 yards.
On defense, linebacker Will Conner led the way with seven tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss. D.J. Douglass had a team-best 3.5 tackles for loss and Jeremiah Alexander had 2.5 tackles for loss. As a team, the Warriors had 11 tackles for loss.
Thompson moves on to a critical region matchup against homestanding Mountain Brook next Friday. Mountain Brook remained unbeaten with a victory over Class 7A No. 2 ranked Hewitt-Trussville on Friday night.