Defense didn’t win Thompson High a championship on Friday night. But the Thompson defense did keep the Warriors on the road to a possible championship in the 37-13 victory over visiting Hewitt-Trussville in the AHSAA Class 7A quarterfinals.
The Huskies, who sport one of the most explosive offenses in the state, was no match for the Warriors on Friday night. Thompson (10-1) limited Hewitt-Trussville (9-3) to 221 yards and forced four turnovers by the Huskies. Senior D.J. Douglass finished with three interceptions but he was just part of a dominant defensive performance against a team that scored 49 points in a 14-point loss to the Warriors just three weeks ago.
“Can’t say enough about how our defense played,” said Thompson head coach Mark Freeman, whose team advanced to a Class 7A semifinal next Friday against Hoover at the Hoover Met. “Our defensive staff did a great job preparing and executing.”
Thompson had trouble stopping the Huskies on the ground in the teams’ first meeting. In the second game, though, Hewitt-Trussville managed just 55 yards on 22 carries. On the other side, the Warriors were dominating on the ground.
Senior running back Shadrick Byrd had another huge game against the Huskies. This time, he carried the ball 24 times for 165 yards with one touchdown. He led the way for a ground game that piled up 257 yards on 45 carries.
It was an efficient night for quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, who was 12-of-21 for 175 yards with a pair of touchdown passes to Michael Pettway.
The Warriors scored on their opening possession when Tagovailoa and Pettway hooked up for a 7-yard score with 10:17 left in the first quarter. Evan McGuire booted the extra point and added a 25-yard field goal nine minutes later. Hewitt-Trussville trimmed the lead to 10-7 on a touchdown pass midway through the second quarter.
Thompson changed the complexion of the game in the final minute of the first half. It began with a 24-yard touchdown run by Byrd that was followed by a blocked extra point. The Warriors forced a quick turnover and then closed the first half scoring with a 42-yard pass from Tagovailoa to Pettway. The Warriors led, 23-7, at halftime.
The Warriors continued to stifle the Huskies in the second half, holding them to a fourth quarter touchdown pass in the final 24 minutes. Thompson sandwiched touchdown runs of 25 yards by Tagovailoa and 21 yards by Jarrett Crockett (11 carries for 66 yards) around the Huskies’ lone second half score to walk away with the win.
Now the focus turns to a semifinal match with Hoover for the second successive season.
“Wow, what a great night for the team,” Freeman said. “This was a complete team win. I was a little disappointed in the penalties tonight, I think we had 14 penalties, but our kids battled through that and managed to get a big win. We have another big week next week and we are excited to be practicing on Thanksgiving.”