The #1 Thompson Warriors will clash with the #2 Hoover Bucs at the Hoover Met on Friday night. It is the game of the unbeatens as both teams come into the game at 9-0 overall and 6-0 in Class 7A, Region 3. The winner will get the region title and the #1 seed in the region. Both are guaranteed first round home games in the playoffs.
Thompson has won the last five meetings between these two teams along with six out of the last seven games played. Before that, Hoover won 21 straight games between the two teams. Due to the Thompson defense, not many media members and fans are giving Hoover a chance in this game but we will see soon enough who comes out as champions.
Thompson comes into this game as the most talented team ever assembled in Class 7A along with maybe the best defense ever in any classification. Remember, we are just in our eighth season of Class 7A. Thompson biggest wins of the season are against Hewitt-Trussville (42-9), Oak Mountain (48-0) and 6A Mountain Brook (51-0). "I thought coming into the season, we were going to be good on defense," said Warriors head coach Mark Freeman. "I knew we had to replace a lot of key players on offense. We lost a lot of nuts and bolts from last year and this season every week were trying to get a little bit better and better on offense. We are a little different on offense, but the defense has held up its part and we do a pretty good job on defense."
The Warriors are averaging 49.8 points per game and the starters mostly play for only a half plus for most of the games this season. The Warriors offense had to replace seven starters from last season.
Quarterback Conner Harrell leads the Warriors attack. The North Carolina commitment has completed 113-of-167 for 2,098 yards with 32 touchdowns and only three interceptions and you can see why UNC liked in what they see in Harrell. "North Carolina runs a very familiar scheme that we run," added Freeman. "They put a lot on the quarterback to read the pre-snap stuff. They saw that on video and see that he could do those things that they run." Also, Harrell has rushed for 317 yards with four touchdowns.
At running back, the stable is full of good backs. Brandon Franklin, Ahmari Bolden, AJ Green, Lione Cook and Justin Pegues have carries for the Warriors. Franklin has offers from Navy, Davidson College, Army and Georgetown University. For the season, the senior running back has 507 yards on 71 carries with nine touchdowns. Next up in line for carries is Bolden. Bolden has an offer from Faulkner University and has rushed for 352 yards on 50 carries and three touchdowns. Also, Pegues has 192 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. Pegues has offers from Faulkner University, Bethel College and Maryville College.
At wide receiver, the Bucs are going to have their hands full on containing this group. Ryan Peppins, Jaylen Ward, Deuce Oliver and Pegues. Peppins is the key to the Warriors offense. "I felt people are missing out on a great player," added Freeman. "I really see a lot of David Palmer (Alabama) in him. He is that kind of player. He is smart, so fast and quick." Peppins has been committed to Western Kentucky, but just received his first Power 5 offer this week in Utah. For the season, Peppins has 920 yards on 48 receptions and 17 touchdowns. Those are incredible numbers since he usually plays three quarters or less in a lot of games this season. Last week against Oak Mountain, Peppins had five receptions for 227 yards and five touchdowns.
Pegues has 484 yards on 20 receptions and five touchdowns. Pegues holds a 24.2 yard average per catch. Ward has 479 yards on 24 catches and eight touchdowns. Ward has committed to Middle Tennessee State back in the summer time. Oliver has 103 yards on seven receptions on the season.
The offensive line of Ryan Walker, Parker Mitchell, center Cole Hall, Noah Watts and Stanton Ramil will need to have a good game against a solid Bucs defensive front. "I think we are getting better each week," said Freeman. "Were still trying to get better. They play hard each game. They play physical and we are a little undersized in that area. We can live with them playing hard."
No team has been able to crack the Thompson code on defense. The Warriors defense gives up only 2.9 points per game and have five shutouts so far this season. The front seven is crazy good and put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses. Alabama commit linebacker Jeremiah Alexander leads the team with 64 tackles with 22 tackles for loss this season. With him at linebacker you have Jax Van Zandt, a North Texas commitment, that has 51 tackles and 11 TFL. Linebacker Nate Riddle has 37 tackles and 8 TFL. Riddle has an offer from Tuskegee University and Eastern Kentucky. Linebacker Seth Hampton has 47 tackles and 15 TFL. Hampton received an offer from Charlotte back in October. Kendall Franklin will get some time at linebacker in key times of the game.
The defensive front has Peter Woods, AJ Allen and Elijah Williams. Woods has every Power 5 offer you might want. Woods has 62 tackles and 16 TFL. Allen has nine tackles and 2 FTL, while Williams has 21 tackles and 8 TFL. The defensive front seven has 20 sacks on the season led by Alexander with seven.
The secondary has talent led by Alabama commit corner Trequon Fegans who just decommited from Miami. With him is safety Tony Mitchell, another one with all kinds of Power 5 offers. Trevor Hardy is the other corner opposite Fegans. Hardy committed to Memphis earlier in the season. Safety Kaleb Harris is young but has gained a lot of experience in the last nine games this season. Karston Haywood will get time in the secondary and leads the team with two interceptions along with Mitchell.
Sometimes special teams play a part in these big games. Hardy handles the kicking duties for the Warriors. Hardy averages 39.3 yards per punt this season. Hardy is 52-of-56 in extra points while only holds one 23-yard field goal this season. Pegues has five punt returns for a 28.4 yard average. Peppins has one punt return for 30-yards.
For Hoover, they have wins over North Gwinnett, Ga (38-14), Alpheretta, Ga (35-7), Oak Mountain (28-21), and Hewitt-Trussville (34-10). The Bucs offense averages 36.8 points per game. The Bucs have played well for the most part of the season and knew a few things that they could build of off to start the season. "Toughness, watching these kids working hard all season," said Bucs head coach Josh Niblett. "We worked hard on getting our edge back in the program. We played against some physical teams in our non-region schedule. We wanted to go on the road and play some good teams. We wanted to get our toughness back. Most guys go in the weight room just want to get by but we are getting stronger. Felt good about this group that they wanted to put in the work and they did that with their toughness."
Quarterback Bennett Meredith leads the Hoover offense. Meredith has completed 122-of-195 passing for 1,922 yards with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions. Meredith just made the Alabama roster for the Alabama-Mississippi All-star game later in the season. Thompson has seen him play at Spain Park last season and now with Hoover. Last year against Thompson, Meredith completed 27-of-47 passing for 304 yards & 3 TD's with a rushing TD.
At running back, the Bucs have a long list that can carry the football. Ahamari Williams leads the way for the Bucs offense. Williams has 913 yards on 135 carries and 11 touchdowns. Williams has 117 yards on 9 receptions and two touchdowns. So that is over 1,000 total yards for Williams. Kamal Amerson is next in line with 181 yards on 25 carries. Josh Giddens and Lamarion McCammon could get some carries for the Bucs offense.
The wide receivers are getting better each week and came into the season with little experience. The Bucs offense is very diverse with tight ends and receivers and Hoover can do a lot of different formations with them. RJ Hamilton, KJ Law, Cotton Peters, Jordan Woolen, Cia Mayowa and Fredrick Dunson. Hamilton has been off the first eight games of the season but came back against Tuscaloosa County last week. The Vanderbilt baseball commitment had three catches for 67 yards and two touchdowns. Hamilton has been the Bucs leading receiver the last two years as a freshman and as a sophomore. "We just plugged RJ in and he is a big part of our team and energy," said Niblett. "It is a credit to the other guys that gained experience when he was gone. We have a lot of depth now at receiver. We can move other guys around. We have guys that can make plays. He brings energy and likes to compete. He was around at camp so he knows what we want to do." Last season, Hamilton had over 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
With Reynolds, Law has 445 yards on 23 receptions with three touchdowns. Peters has 404 yards on 24 receptions and four touchdowns. McCammon has 195 yards on nine receptions and a touchdown. Mayowa has 128 yards on 12 receptions. At tight end is Sky Niblett and Jabari Gaines. Both will play at the same time and can help the running game and the passing game. With both on the field together, you don't know if they are going to run it or pass it. Niblett has five touchdowns while Gaines has two touchdowns on the season. The Bucs offense is very balanced.
The offensive line of Ethan Hubbard, Allen Franklin, Jordan Washington, Rashad Smith and Jason Avelar are playing pretty good for the Bucs offense. "I've been excited about this group," said Niblett. "These guys are close and are playing together. They know that they are going to need to play well to give us a chance on Friday night."
The defense is only giving up 12 points per game and they are pretty good this season. "We can't let them be two dimensional, we can't let them run or pass the football," said Niblett. "We have to know where Peppins is at all times. They have so many good players around them. We have our work cut out but we have a plan that we will work on Friday night and our kids will be ready."
Up front is the key to the Bucs defense. Andrew Parrish, Markus Clark, Corey Warren and Terrell Jones will need to play big to give this defense a chance. Clark and Warren are committed to Coastal Carolina. Jones has offers to Tulane, Illinois, UAB, Memphis, UNC-Charlotte, Elon, Campbell, Alabama State, UT-Martin, Minnesota, Army and a few others. Jones and Warren have two sacks apiece. The linebackers are Ashton Taylor and Josh Carter. Taylor has an offer from North Alabama. Carter leads the team in tackles with 23 tackles and four tackles for loss.
The secondary will need to play big. Corners Dale Miller and RJ Brackett will have their hands full with the Thompson outside receivers. Jacob Finley, Jay Avery and Paul Thompson will play the back end of the Bucs defense. Finley has committed to the NIU Huskies. Miller has offers from Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss and Tennessee among others. Avery has an offer from Troy and UNC-Charlotte. Thompson has a 96-yard pick six against Prattville earlier in the season.
Special teams is very good with kicker Peyton Argent. The sophomore kicker has a 39.3 yard per punt average. Argent is 4-for-5 on field goals and is 27-of-27 on extra points. Woolen has an 85-yard kick return for a touchdown last week against Tuscaloosa County. Peters will return punts for the Bucs.
This should be a special game with two undefeated teams this season.