E.A. Sports Today

Showdown shootout

7A Thompson jumps out front quickly and beats Oxford 56-34 in battle of defending state champions

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

ALABASTER – If you ever wondered how the Class 7A state champion would stack up against a 6A state champion, you found out Saturday night.

Defending 7A titleist Thompson squared off with 6A champ Oxford and it turned out to be a wild shootout with the Warriors outgunning the Yellow Jackets 56-34.

The Jackets got ambushed in the first quarter and fell behind 21-0 before they could pick up a first down. But like a champion, they picked themselves up and from that point on traded five touchdowns with their hosts the rest of the way.

In fact, Oxford had two other scoring opportunities inside the Warriors 10 in the second half and came away with no points and dropped an interception that would have been a sure pick-six.

“This is why we schedule teams like Thompson,” said Oxford head coach Keith Etheredge. “We want to be known as the best team in Alabama period, not just 6A. We got off to a bad start, but we settled down and played well the rest of the way against a great football team and we learned a lot about our football team.”

It was Oxford’s first loss in a season-opener since 2013 when they lost to Carrollton (Ga.) 35-14.

If you liked offense this was the place to be. Besides the 90 points, the teams combined for 768 net yards.

In the end, the brilliance of Warrior quarterback Conner Harrell combined with electric running of Jarrett Crockett proved to be too much for the valiant Yellow Jackets to overcome. Harrell, making his first start, threw for 244 yards on 17-of-24 passing, rushed for 57 more and accounted for five touchdowns. Crockett had 131 yards rushing, 67 yards receiving and four touchdowns.

In 2019 Oxford’s first-team defense allowed only 77 points during the regular season; Thompson hung 56 on the Yellow Jackets in the game. It was only the fourth time since 2000 the Jackets had given up more than 50 points in a game and the most points they’d allowed since a 69-63 six-overtime playoff loss to Etowah in 1991. It was the most they’d given up in a regular-season game since 1940 (Anniston 59-0).

Thompson has only given up more points than Oxford’s 34 in a game during the regular season to Hoover and Hewitt-Trussville in the last three years.

Thompson got on the board first after the Yellow Jackets took a big gamble and went for it on fourth-and-1 at their own 29 on their first possession and failed. It took the Warriors five plays to score and they never trailed since. Crockett made the Jackets pay with an 8-yard touchdown run.

Oxford was stopped by penalties on its second possession and once again Thompson drove it for a score. This drive covered 49 yards and ended with Harrell hitting Tre Roberson on a 25-yard scoring pass.

The Warriors struck again before the quarter ended when Harrell capped a 51-yard drive with 4-yard touchdown run.The stunned Yellow Jackets only had one first down and 13 yards of offense in the quarter and it was on the last play of the quarter.

The second quarter started off nicely as Trey Higgins heaved a 51-yard pass down the Oxford sideline to a streaking Rock Taylor for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked, but the Jackets were on the board.

The Warriors and the Yellow Jackets traded touchdowns at a furious pass the rest of the quarter, scoring four times in the final four minutes and twice in the final 30 seconds. Higgins connected with Taylor on a 17-yard touchdown pass and found Bakari Daily for an 8-yard scoring pass, while Thompson’s Crockett was scoring twice for the Warriors.

Higgins ended the night with 151 yards rushing and a touchdown, while adding 172 yards passing with four touchdowns.

Oxford recovered the kickoff to start the second half at the Thompson 23, but was unable to score. After stopping the Warriors, the Jackets drove it in for another score as Higgins connected with Dailey on a 13-yard touchdown pass to chop the lead to 42-28.

Thompson answered the Jackets score again as Harrell went in from 8 yards out and for the fourth time Thompson was ahead by 21 points.

After a Harrell touchdown in the fourth quarter Higgins raced 65 yards down the Warrior sideline for an Oxford touchdown. The Jackets recovered a Warrior fumble inside the 20 right after the Higgins score and threatened to score again. However, the skies opened at that point and in the ensuing downpour, the Jackets fumbled it back to the Warriors and missed a final scoring chance.

The Jackets will travel to 5A Pleasant Grove next week. Pleasant Grove lost the Class 5A state championship game last year in the final seconds to Clay Central.

Oxford               0   21   7   6  —  34
Thompson       21  21   7   7  —  56
T – Jarrett Crockett 8 run (Trevor Hardy kick), 9:05 1Q
T – Tre Roberson 25 pass from Conner Harrell (Trevor Hardy kick), 3:34 1Q
T – Conner Harrell 4 run (Trevor Hardy kick), 1:00 1Q
O – Roc Taylor 51 pass from Trey Higgins (kick blocked), 11:14 2Q
T – Jarrett Crockett 31 pass from Conner Harrell (Trevor Hardy kick), 6:58 2Q
O – Roc Taylor 17 pass from Trey Higgins (Rod Elston pass from Trey Higgins), 4:10 2Q
T – Jarrett Crockett 18 run (Trevor Hardy kick), 2:04 2Q
O – Bakari Dailey 11 pass from Trey Higgins (Ashton Mitchell kick), 0:31 2Q
T – Jarrett Crockett 9 run (Trevor Hardy kick), 0:02 2Q
O – Bakari Dailey 13 pass from Trey Higgins (Joell Garcia kick), 6:50 3Q
T – Conner Harrell 8 run (Trevor Hardy kick), 3:23 3Q
T – J.B. Mitchell 33 pass from Conner Harrell (Trevor Hardy kick), 5:01 4Q
O – Trey Higgins 65 run (kick failed), 4:31 4Q

Oxf                  Tho
14       1st D   18
25-169 Rush37-178
13-21-0  C-A-I  17-24-0
172     Pass   249
2-1      F-L      2-2
4-33.0Punt    2-37.5
5-30    Pen     9-90

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