Boy Scouts Perspective: Breaking Thompson vs. Central-Phenix City in Class 7A Title Game
Two teams used to playing for a championship will face off again for the Class 7A state title at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Protection Stadium in Birmingham.
The two-time defending champion Thompson (12-1) is aiming for his third consecutive title against Central-Phenix City (13-0), undefeated. This is the third time in the past four years that these two teams have met for the 7A State title.
Super 7 Primer: what you need to know this week
AL.com Power 25 Ranking
Super 7 predictions
The Red Devils won the first meeting 52-7 in 2018 to complete an unbeaten season. Thompson returned the favor in 2019, winning 40-14. A year ago, the Warriors beat Auburn 29-28, scoring 10 points in the final 18 seconds of an unlikely comeback.
The Warriors have beaten their opponents 598-77 this season with the only loss in the regular season finale at Hoover. Ten of their 13 opponents have been limited to single digits, including five shutouts. Thompson outscored his three playoff opponents 120-27.
Central-Phenix City beat their opponents 564-175, including a margin of 143-65 in the playoffs. Auburn was the only team to hold the Red Devils under 30 points. The Tigers have done it twice, even though they lost both games. Central beat Auburn 21-7 in the regular season and 28-17 in the semifinals.
AL.com asked several coaches who know the teams well for a preview of the game. Here’s a look at how the Championship game breaks down:
In the playoffs:
Thompson: Defeated Florence 49-10, Oak Mountain 45-7 and Hoover 35-10.
Phoenix city center: Defeated Daphne 38-7, Theodore 77-41 and Auburn 28-17.
How to beat Thompson?
A trainer joked “with a stick in their sleep”. Another coach said Central must be able to compete athletically with the Warriors. Sadly, there’s probably no other team in the state that can do it at this point. Aside from that, the coaches said the Red Devils need breaks to move on, need to find a way to produce pieces on offense and keep the game close late. âMaybe if it’s tight late you can make them a little uncomfortable,â a coach said.
How to beat Central-Phenix City?
Put constant pressure on QB Caleb Nix. âWhen he’s under pressure he’s not comfortable, but you have to reach for it,â said one coach. Nix has the unique ability to keep records alive with his legs. âYou can have them in a third and long and he can rush in and get the first one. It can be a moose killer. It doesn’t go down easily either. Your tacklers must be able to face it or you are in trouble.
Player to watch: Thompson
Conner Harrell, senior, quarterback
Harrell’s collarbone injury in the first half of last year’s 7A Title game against Auburn significantly limited what the Warriors could do offensively in the second half, although they managed to secure the victory in the last seconds. Harrell, a North Carolina player, was also injured in the regular season finale against Hoover, but returned to the quarterfinal against Oak Mountain and started the rematch with the Bucs. He showed no ill effects in the semifinals, completing 11 of 12 passes for 142 yards and four touchdowns and also running for 39 yards. His health is crucial for Thompson.
Player to watch: Central-Phenix City
Karmello English, junior, wide catcher
The Englishman, one of the state’s top rookies in 2023, is the Red Devils’ most dynamic playmaker. He has 68 receptions for 1,042 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. He also scored two touchdowns on the ground. The Englishman accounted for 1,253 total yards. He also has four tackles in defense. He needs to touch the ball – a lot – for Central-Phenix City to be in this game.
Statistics Sheet: Thompson
Harrell completes 70 percent of his passes for 2,532 yards and 39 touchdowns. He was only intercepted three times. He also ran for 361 yards and 4 touchdowns. Senior Brandon Franklin (98 carries, 645 yards, 12 TDs) leads the ground team. Utah engagement Ryan Peppins is the team’s best receiver (73 receptions, 1,175 yards, 21 touchdowns). He is followed by Jaylen Ward (35 receptions, 782 yards, 11 TDs). Senior Justin Pegues has been a weapon out of the field as a runner (69 carries, 571 yards, 4 touchdowns) and receiver (25 receptions, 597 yards, 7 touchdowns). The defense is led by frontline Alabama commit Jeremiah Alexander (86 tackles, 27 TFL) and junior Peter Woods (84 tackles, 24 TFL). Linebacker Jax Van Zandt has 76 tackles. The secondary is anchored by the commit Alabama Tre’Quon Fegans (3 interceptions) and the junior Tony Mitchell (2).
Statistics Sheet: Central-Phenix City
Nix had a Mr. Football-like senior year as a quarterback, completing 59% of his passes for 2,666 yards and 36 touchdowns. He has been intercepted nine times. Nix also racked up 624 yards and 11 touchdowns on 73 carries. Senior Jaimel Johnson is the team’s best rusher (105 carries, 886 yards, 10 TDs). The Englishman has been Nix’s main target by far, although senior Marquevious Terry has 36 receptions for 467 yards and 6 TDs. Defensively, DL junior Tomarrion Parker is key. He has 23.5 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks. Senior DB Damion Tharp has 72 tackles, while senior LB James Smyre has 68.
Did you know? Thompson
The Warriors were 10-40 under three head coaches from 2010 to 2014. In seven years under Mark Freeman, Thompson is 71-15 with a pair of crown titles. Ten of the 15 losses came in Freeman’s first two years at school. Since that time, the Warriors have gone 12-1, 11-2, 12-1, 14-0 and 12-1.
Did you know? Central-Phenix City
Red Devils coach Patrick Nix is ââplaying for his third state title in five seasons. He led Pinson Valley to the 6A title in 2017 and 2018 with his eldest son, Bo Nix, as quarterback. Now he’s playing for the 7A state title with his youngest son, Caleb, as a quarterback. Patrick Nix is ââ87-27 in a total of nine years as a head coach. That includes four years in Scottsboro, three in Pinson Valley, and the final two in Central.
Game within a game
These are wide receivers against defensive backs on both sides.
When Thompson gets the ball, Peppins, Ward and the other Warrior receivers will try to open up against Cincinnati committing JQ Hardaway and Siraj Muhammad. When Central is offensive, English and Terry have to find space against Fegans and Mitchell. âBoth of these teams have guys who can make plays,â said a coach. âWho is going to make the most plays on offense and who will do the most on defense? It should be interesting.
How can Central-Phenix City block two elite passer at Thompson’s Alexander and Woods? Alexander has nine bags and 27 dispatches this year. Woods has 10 bags and 28 dispatches. A coach said the 6-3, 259-pound Woods would be the best player on the pitch at all times. That does mean something considering that Alexander has been considered the best rookie in his class for the past three years. “He’s amazing,” the coach said of the uncommitted Woods.
Rankings / Live
Thompson was ranked No.2 in the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s latest Class 7A poll after the regular season, while Central-Phenix City was No.3. AL.com Power 25 – which ranks teams in each classification – the Warriors are No.1 and Central is No.2.
This week’s eight games, including the inaugural women’s flag football championship, will be televised live by the AHSAA television network and streamed live on the NFHS network. The AHSAA radio network will also broadcast all matches on its national network or its affiliated radios as well as on the Internet.
Thompson 35, Central-Phenix City 27