Thompson High’s football program will receive some unprecedented national advertising on Friday night when ESPN2 cameras will chronicle the crucial Class 7A Region 3 showdown with visiting Hewitt-Trussville.
“I look at it as a blessing that ESPN would come here and cover a game,” said Thompson High head coach Mark Freeman. “Just the exposure for our community, that, for so many years was not necessarily thriving in the football business. We’ve been blessed over the last 2-3 years to build a name for ourselves. I just think it’s a great opportunity to showcase our stadium, our facilities, our band. It’s just a great thing for everyone involved for us and Hewitt.”
Undoubtedly, the opportunity to compete with the nation looking on is part of a recipe for a special night. However, that’s just might take a backseat to the stakes at hand in Friday night’s matchup, which kicks off at 6:30. Each team is part of a four-team logjam, joining Hoover and Mountain Brook, at the top of the Region 3 standings. Fortunately, the crowd at the top will thin out naturally with the Warriors and Huskies playing and Hoover facing off with Mountain Brook.
So, while a nationally televised game is welcomed, what’s most important about tonight is more about Xs, Os and execution.
For Thompson, that starts with trying to limit the big plays for a Huskie offense that features several Alabama and Auburn commitments, including quarterback Paul Tyson, who is slated to join Thompson quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa on the Crimson Tide roster.
The Warriors are coming off a stifling defensive performance when they limited previously unbeaten Mountain Brook to one score in a 31-7 road victory. Friday’s challenge, however, is much more stringent.
“At Mountain Brook, if you miss a tackle, maybe they can get you on a big play,” Freeman said. “These cats can hit you on a big play any time. It doesn’t matter the down and distance, it doesn’t matter tendencies. If you’re guy can’t tackle a Division I Alabama or Auburn commit – at all (skill) positions – they can strike on you quick and often. They put 50-something on Hoover and just kept striking. We’ve got to figure out how to slow them down and be patient in some areas.”
The good news is that Hewitt-Trussville has the same challenge with a Thompson offense that can choose the proper way to attack a defense with similar success. Last week, Freeman turned the keys to the offense over to a running game that featured senior running back Shadrick Byrd.
“Our thinking was that, at some point, late in the year, we need to be able to run the football,” Freeman said. “We work on it every week, trying to create our best way to run the football. I think, last week, we were able to do that and we didn’t have to go into a lot of throws off of that. Now, I think we’ve presented challenge to teams that we can run it out of a two back package. If we can get out personnel to match up where we can be multiple with the same personnel. That’s where I think we’ll be effective and you have issues to prepare against us.”
Freeman said his team, which has grown accustomed to playing in big games, is “comfortable” heading into Friday night.
“The kids reflect on the moment and they understand the moment,” Freeman said. “I tell the kids and I live my life like this, because so many things come your way, unless the good Lord comes Friday night, the sun is coming up Saturday morning. Our life has to move on. That football game is very important, we put a lot into it and it means a lot to these kids. But it’s just part of our journey.”