Thompson at Oxford | Friday - August 20, 2021 | Non-Region Game
The Thompson Warriors travel to Oxford Friday night to start the 2021 season and will face the Yellow Jackets under first year head coach Sam Adams. Thompson won 56-34 last year to open the 2020 season and they will come into the game being the two time Alabama 7A state champions with an unbelievable comeback win against Auburn in the state championship game.
It would be easy to pencil Thompson in for the Super 7 championship game this year with a lot of returners and transfers on both sides of the ball but let us not do that right yet. A lot could happen between now and December while injuries, complacency could be a factor or a better team.
Ask Alabama head coach Nick Saban coming off a national championship and bringing in major league baseball player Alex Rodriguez to speak to his team. "We won the world championship in '09, and I'm gonna talk about why we didn't win in 2010," said Rodriguez in a video released by Alabama. "Great players, great teams are always anticipating what's next and putting yourself in a position to win. Positioning in football, in business, in parenting, in everything is everything. You guys have a ginormous target on you. In 2009, we won the world championship. In 2010, I thought we were gonna repeat. We were a little comfortable. We couldn't control the disease of me, the ego." How big is the target for Thompson. Very big I would say.
"This team has not won a game this year and we need great chemistry and effort," said Warriors head coach Mark Freeman. "I do not think we will have any kind of let down or complacency, we just will not allow it around here because of the last 16 years the way we practive and the routine we are in and the things we do. We can never go back and place the blame on complacency. That is not the case. Maybe were not good enough or don't prepare enough. You might not even play good on that day. I don't think there is a complacent bone in this program."
On paper, Thompson is loaded, but they did graduate some great talent that they have to replace. In covering my 14th year of high school football, it is the most talent and experienced team that I have seen in a long time. The Thompson offensive skilled guys are very, very good. It is the offensive line that will be the key how good this offense really is. The Warriors have to replace seven players on offense but the talent is at Thompson to do it.
At quarterback is senior Conner Harrell. The North Carolina verbal commitment completed 229-of-312 passes for 3,568 yards with 42 touchdowns and three interceptions. Also, he had 292 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He was Class 7A Back of the Year and the Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year. Harrell is coming off an injury where he had to come out of the game against Auburn in the state championship game. He has no effect from the injury and looks to have another monster season.
At running back, Brandon Franklin returns and is a big punishing back that can pack a load between the tackles. Franklin is coming off an injury and looks to be good for the start of the season. Franklin has offers from Navy, Army, Georgetown University and Davidson. Incoming transfer from Spain Park, Justin Pegues brings speed and quickness to the running back position and can catch the ball out of the backfield. "Justin is a great guy to coach and works so hard," said Freeman. "He understands the game and he will let us do some different things that we were not able to do in the past. He is a legitimate receiver along with being a good running back." Pegues had 570 rushing yards and 426 receiving yards from last year. Ahmari Bolden, a Faulkner University offer, brings much needed depth along with senior Lione Cook.
At receiver, Ryan Peppins is a star on the football field for the Warriors. One of the explosive players when he touches the ball. One of the best three best recievers in 7A along with RJ Hamilton (Hoover) and Omari Kelly (Hewitt-Trussville). Peppins scored on receiving, rushes and on a punt return last year. Last season, the Western Kentucky verbal commitment, had over 1,100 receiving yards with 18 receiving touchdowns. I am very surprised he does not have a SEC offer. "Ryan is critical to our offense and I would put him up against anybody," added Freeman. "Not only is he a speed guy with quick moves, he is a football smart kid. He does a great job of knowing where to be at the end of the play instead of just the start of the play. He is very good when DB's try to leverage him inside or outside. It's my fault if I get him jammed up at the line of scrimmage. When he free releases, he is so good off of the leveras. He is just hard to cover. He is one of the best players in the state."
Two other great receivers transfer in from Spain Park. Jaylen Ward, a Middle Tennessee State verbal commitment and David Moultry a Navy offer will bring big explosive plays for the Thompson offense. Other receivers in the rotation will be Joey Nowak, Bo Jones and Deuce Oliver.
The offensive line has to replace three starters from last season. One key piece of the line that is coming back is Center Cole Hall. "Cole started every game for us last year," said Freeman. "He is the bell cow. We count on him and does a great job for us. He is our guy." Other lineman that will be working in the front five will be Parker Mitchell, Noah Watts, Zachary Felton, Steven Lillich, Stanton Ramil and Zach Felton. The line has progressed in the fall and they look to have a great season.
On defense, a lot of experience returns. The linebackers have a lot of experience with Alabama verbal commitment Jeremiah Alexander, North Texas verbal commitment Jax Van Zandt, Peter Woods and Nate Riddle. "Nate is very important to our defense and is one of our best football players," added Freeman. "He can do so many things. He is smart and very versatile that can let us do some different things. That allows Jeremiah and Peter (Woods) to do the things they are good at. Were so blessed have Nate and Jax in the middle. They are old throw back football players that will hit and strike you. They know their run fits and they are leaders. Here blessed to have them." Woods has Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia and many more offers. Alexander led the team in tackles for loss and sacks last season.
The defensive line has Kyle Wright, Elijah Whitter, JaAnthony Allen, Jeffrey Kimochu, Jackson Scott, Dylon Willis, Kaleb Thompson and Kyle Hamilton. Linebacker help will come from Elijia Whittier, Casey Kimochu (Morehouse College, Belhaven College offers), Seth Hampton, Ashton Sparks and Kobe Sparks. A lot of bodies to rotate on the defensive side of the ball.
The secondary is the best in 7A. Tra'Quon Fegans, a transfer from Oxford, is one of the best corners in the state. The Miami verbal commitment can take your best receiver and take him out of the game. "Tre'Quon is one of the best corners that I have ever seen," said Freeman. "Johnny Cook was one of my best corners. He is in that same fit. He is a smart kid that gives you maximum effort on each snap."
Tony Mitchell, who really can play safety or corner for the Warriors, is the most versatile in the secondary. "We going to move Tony around on defense," added Freeman. "Tony can play corner, safety, nickel and really can do some good things for us." Rounding out the Warriors secondary will be sophomore A'mon Lane, Trevor Hardy (Memphis verbal commitment, Jake Ivie, DJ Lewis, Karston Haywood and freshman Anquon Fegans.
For Oxford, they played a jamboree game against James Clemens last week and most of the starters played a half in the game. Oxford had a lot of players transfer out this season but look to still make the playoffs in 2021. "We have a talented group but a lot of inexperience. We only have 12 players in our senior class," said Adams. "Last week against James Clemens, we had 23 guys that played meaningful varsity experience. We are breaking a lot of young players in. Early in the season, we want to see some growth in them. We are young and hungry."
Quarterback Sam Robertson will lead the Yellow Jackets offense this season. Robertson can throw the football but also showed that he can move the ball on the ground if he needs to. "Sam has very good leadership skills and can do a lot of different things at the quarterback position," said Adams. "I would't just pencil him in as a pocket passer or just a runner because he can do both. He made some very good plays with his feet the other night and pulled one on a zone read. He just needs that experience with the heat on him. Very happy with his growth and he is a fast learner. A good understanding of what we are doing on offense." Quarterback Kamari Mcclellan did some good things in the James Clemens game last week.
Running back is in good hands with sophomore Jaydon Thomas. Not many people know who he is right now but look for him to have a breakout season for the Yellow Jackets. "Jaydon is a future star," said Thomas. "He has a big skill set for a young guy. He is strong enough to hold up in pass protection. Another good learner of the game. He can make you miss on tackles and makes others better." Safety/LB Jordan Dobbins will get carries. "Jordan has great vision and power," said Adams. "If he can get down hill, he can be a very effective running back. Colleges will like him at both positions at the next level." LB Nick Merriweather could get some carries so Thomas can get some rest.
Kyle Pilkington is the only returning starter on the offensive line and it will be heavily tested against the Thompson front line. "Kyle is one of the best offensive lineman that I have ever coached," added Adams. "He is not one of the biggest, but plays with a lot of grit and knowledge of the game. He really is helping out the young guys around him. We really lean on him up front." The other lineman are Jaden Rawls, Tate Gregory, Cole Painter and Jackson Bunn.
At receiver, Miguel Mitchell leads the way. Mitchell will get snaps on offense and defense for the Yellow Jackets. "Mentally he is so super sharp that can handle it on both sides," said Adams. "He knows the ins and outs of all the positions that he plays. High academic guy along with being a fast learner. Another two sport guy that excels in baseball. He is a big part of our game plan on both sides of the ball." Mitchell is a verbal Vandy commitment. Also, Judd Rawls, Emari Carroll and tight end Mike Tippetts will get playing time for Oxford.
On defense, Oxford has some players with experience and youth. Linebackers Michael Battle, Nick Merriweather, Talan Edwards and Brayden Cochran will get the start. Corners Mitchell and Dobbins along with safety Hunter Puls will be in the secondary.
The defensive front is not very big but play very effective in Josiah Kimbrough, Xavier DeRamus, Isaiah Wilson and eight grader Kennan Britt. "Our defensive line is not very big, but they play with great technique, fit the gaps and hold the point the best they can," said Adams.
The Oxford defense will need to play huge to keep up with the high power offense of Thompson.