Oak Mountain, Thompson set for undefeated region battles in Games of the Week
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
In what will possibly be the most exciting week of the 2020 high school football season so far, the four remaining unbeaten teams in Class 7A, Region 3 will compete against one another this Friday night.
The Oak Mountain Eagles, who are off to their first 4-0 (2-0) start in school history, will get No. 3 Hoover, while the Thompson Warriors, who are also 4-0 (2-0), will take on Hewitt-Trussville in a nationally-televised battle of top two teams on ESPNU.
Both games have their share of storylines, making them more than deserving of our Games of the Week.
For the Eagles, it not only marks their toughest matchup of the season so far, but they’ve also never beaten Hoover in school history (0-17 all-time).
After making school history last week, could Oak Mountain do it for the second week in a row?
Well, it’s going to be a challenge.
The Eagles have looked good so far this season, but Hoover has been Hoover. The Bucs had a tough go with Vestavia, winning 24-21, a team Oak Mountain just beat 35-28, but so far Hoover is averaging 42.3 points per game and giving up just 14 points per game.
Oak Mountain has only been within 14 points of the Bucs three times in the 17 matchups—a 17-14 loss in 2015, a 21-14 loss in 2011 and a 21-18 loss in 2007.
But this seems to be one of the best teams the Eagles have had in school history, and whenever they are having a good year is when those close games occurred.
The Eagles so far this season are scoring 34.8 points per game and giving up just 18.5. That balance on both sides of the ball has been key.
Not only have quarterback Evan Smith and running back Judah Tait performed well behind a strong offensive line, but the Eagles have had one of their best and most consistent defenses in years.
So far this season, the defense has forced nine turnovers. The Eagles have at least one in every game and forced three against Gadsden City and Chelsea.
Replicating that success and getting extra possessions in this game will be key. Not only will that keep the Oak Mountain defense off the field more against a physical team, but it allows your offense to continue to wear down the Bucs’ defense with a strong rushing attack.
But, the Eagles have also fumbled the ball eight times this season, and while they’ve only lost one in each game (four total), they’ll have to take care of the ball against this Hoover team to have a chance.
The good news for Oak Mountain is that its offense is always difficult to stop, and when the Eagles have the talent to run it properly, it’s even more dangerous. That, combined with the defense, and Oak Mountain will keep this game close.
Oak Mountain 24, Hoover 31
As for the top-two battle between the Warriors and Huskies, it’s tough to beat the talent we’ll see on the field in that game.
Both teams have a plethora of Division-I caliber talent set to compete, including several three- and four-star recruits. Throw in the fact that it’s on ESPNU, the two teams have split the last two matchups and it features two of the best offenses in the state, and you’ve got one of the best games in the country.
Two years ago when the two met in a televised game on ESPN2, Thompson came back from down 28-0 early in the first quarter to pick up a 63-49 win.
Last year, the Huskies bounced back and handed the Class 7A state champs their only loss of the season by a final score of 35-29.
Now, not only is Thompson seeking revenge for that loss, but the Huskies are wanting to prove they can do it in front of a national audience.
Through the first four games this season, Thompson has scored more than 39 in each game and 48 or more in three of four, while Hewitt-Trussville has scored 44 or more in three of their four games with the other being a forfeit win.
That sets up what should be an offensive battle.
Thompson is led by junior quarterback Conner Harrell, who received an offer from the University of Tennessee this past Saturday after an impressive start featuring 17 touchdowns and more than 1,200 yards of offense in four games.
He also has several weapons around him with receivers J.B. Mitchell, Tre Roberson and Ryan Peppins as well as running backs Jarrett Crockett and Brandon Franklin and athlete Sam Reynolds.
Hewitt, however, has offensive weapons as well led by Auburn commit Armoni Goodwin at running back and receiver Omari Kelly.
But what should make the difference in this game is which defense shows up ready to play.
Surprisingly, the Huskies have played more consistent on that side this year, giving up 19, 13 and 18 in their three head-to-head games.
Thompson, however, has been slightly more inconsistent despite entering the season with what was expected to be the best defense in the state and one of the best in the country with three of the best defenders in the state at each level on that side of the ball.
The Warriors gave up 34 in their opener, then seven in two straight games, but are now coming off a performance where they gave up 35 to Spain Park—a team Hewitt held to 13 points.
But that’s also something that should motivate a group of talented players to play their best game of the season.
So far this season, even in the two games the defense gave up 34 and 35, Thompson hasn’t been in danger of losing a game because of the offense’s ability to score on just about every drive.
Because of that, they’ll at the worst be in a tight game in this one. But with the motivation of redemption for last year’s loss and a defense out to prove itself, the Warriors should come out ready to hold onto their No. 1 ranking.
Thompson 42, Hewitt-Trussville 35