Montgomery, AL – Kicking off the 2023 football season with a bang, The Thompson Warrior defense reigned supreme in a scoreless first quarter in the AHSAA Kickoff Classic. However, it was the Warriors’ offense that truly stole the spotlight, erupting for an impressive 23 points in the following period. The defending Class 7A champs clinched a commanding 44-13 win over Opelika at Friday night at Cramton Bowl.
Freshman quarterback Trent Seaborn appeared as comfortable in the 18th annual Kickoff Classic as he did in the Class 7A Super 7 state finals last season. He completed 20-of-26 passes for 246 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Receiver Deuce Oliver managed nine catches for 118 yards and one touchdown, while running back Michael Dujon rushed for two touchdowns in the second half. Coach Mark Freeman’s team extended their winning streak to five games, which includes four consecutive playoff victories in 2022 for the school’s fourth straight state title.
Thompson’s defense delivered in the first quarter. However, the offense missed several prime scoring opportunities when wide open receivers failed to come down with Seaborn’s downfield throws.
The initial major offensive catch happened fortuitously. Under pressure, Seaborn threw to Oliver, and the ball rebounded off his hands into teammate Colben Landew’s possession inside the 10-yard line, gaining 26 yards.
A.J. Green made two runs to advance the ball to the 3-yard line as the scoreless first quarter concluded.
Opelika’s defense rose to the occasion and halted the Warriors on the first play of the second quarter on third down. Place-kicker John McGuire then split the uprights from 29 yards out with 11:14 remaining in the second quarter, giving Thompson a hard-earned 3-0 lead.
Following the McGuire field goal, Opelika managed to secure two first downs before a personal foul halted their momentum.
Thompson capitalized on this shift, with Seaborn completing two quick passes. The second one connected with Oliver, who bolted all the way to the Bulldog 4-yard line. Two plays later, Green scored a 5-yard touchdown run through a large gap. McGuire added the extra point, and the Warriors led 10-0 at the 6:43 mark of the second quarter.
Opelika fullback Calvin Hughley broke free for a 38-yard touchdown run to narrow Thompson’s lead to 10-7. However, Thompson swiftly responded. A solid 40-yard kickoff return by Kaleb Harris provided good field position near midfield. Seaborn then connected on three consecutive passes, including a 36-yarder to Hearn and a 12-yard touchdown toss to Hearn. The extra point sailed, leaving Thompson with a 16-7 advantage with 2:42 left in the half.
The Warrior defense delivered again on Opelika’s ensuing possession, as Kaleb Harris intercepted a Roman Gagliano pass and returned it to the Bulldogs’ 15-yard line. Seaborn then threw a precise scoring strike across the middle to Oliver expanding the Warriors’ lead to 23-7 heading into the break.
Hughley continued to energize the Bulldogs in the third quarter with robust runs, including a 1-yard touchdown plunge to reduce Thompson’s lead to 23-13 with 2:38 left in the third quarter.
Seaborn and the Thompson offense responded with an impressive drive, culminating in a 15-yard touchdown run by Michael Dujon with a minute remaining in the third period, resulting in a 30-13 Warrior advantage. The 80-yard drive spanned just six plays.
Dujon scored his second touchdown, and junior Camron Wells ran for a score with 1:17 left for the final Thompson touchdown.
Despite a slow start, Thompson rolled up 392 yards on 49 plays and earned 18 first downs. Dujon led the Thompson rushing attack with 58 yards on four carries. Oliver also had two punt returns totaling 41 yards.
Coach Erik Speakman’s offense achieved 16 first downs and gained 249 yards on 66 plays, surpassing the Warriors by 17 offensive snaps. Gagliano completed 18-of-30 passes for 162 yards, with Jordan Tolbert hauling in five grabs for 50 yards and Drue Gagliano recording four receptions for 50 yards.
Defensively, Trent Cheatom led the Warriors with seven tackles, while Jmarvin Jenkins had seven stops for Opelika.
Thompson welcomes national power IMG Academy to Alabaster next Friday. Opelika will return to Montgomery to take on the JAG Jaguars.
Photo | Thompson freshman quarterback Trent Seaborn (David Holtsford | AHSAA)