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AHSFHS Article Series

   The best of the best in Alabama High   
  School Football over the past 100 seasons.

2023 Super Seven Championships 

                   The 2023 Super Seven Championship Games
                                   7A Central Phenix City vs. Thompson

          This is the third of three installments highlighting participating Super 7 teams that have prior history on the gridiron. The Thompson Warriors hold a 2-1 edge in their series against the Central Phenix City Red Devils.  The closest margin of victory in those three games has been 16 points. Once again, in my opinion, past results have no influence on the game at hand. However, when you've went hat-to-hat three times in the last five years I might back off that statement. 

          Both teams have been central (no pun intended) characters in and around these postseason magic moments. Simply said, it's not unfamiliar ground.  That being said let's take a glance at the previous three contest. 

2018: No. 1 Central-Phenix City (14-0) 52, No. 2 Thompson (11-2) 7 at Auburn (Jordan-Hare Stadium)

2019: No. 3 Thompson (12-1) 40, No. 2 Central-Phenix City (12-2) 14 at Auburn (Jordan-Hare Stadium)

2021: No. 2 Thompson (13-1) 38, No. 3 Central-Phenix City (13-1) 22 at Birmingham (Protective Stadium)

-'s Josh Bean summed up the 2018 championship contest with his game account opening line "Central-Phenix City dominated." Truly, there's no debate about that and the stat sheet underscores Bean's headline.

          Central-Phenix City scored early and often on their way to setting a Class 7A state championship record 52 points.  The Red Devils defense also etched their names into the record books by holding the Warriors to a single score in a Class 7A title contest. Historically, it was the worst defeat Thompson suffered in any playoff game and it also turned out to be the last defeat the Warriors have experienced in the postseason.

          At the end of the 1st quarter Central led 14-0 as Joseph McKay and Peter Parrish scored on runs of 5 and 8 yards respectively.  Amontae Spivey was the third Red Devil to put points on the scoreboard  with his 7-yard run.  At the half Central held a 21-0 advantage. Kicker Noah Pell put his mark on the stat sheet booting a 28-yard field goal. Pell was a perfect 7 of 7 on his point after attempts setting an AHSAA Super 7 record. Peter Parrish followed with his only touchdown toss of 24 yards to Eddie Williams. The Red Devil defense contributed points via a fumble and an interception.  

          Trevon Miller was credited with the scoop and score while Marquez Henry had the pick-six. Tucker Melton tacked on the final Red Devil points in the 4th quarter with a 9-yard rush.  The Warrior's E.J. Edwards evaded the shutout with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Will Hoffman. Evan McQuire PAT made the final score 52-7.

          Following the game Thompson head coach Mark Freeman spoke about a shoulder injury to quarterback Tulia Tagovailoa in the semifinal game against Hoover.  Tagovailoa would end up with a net -11 yards rushing due to the persistant pressure applied by the Red Devils defense.  He also struggled throwing against Central completing 7 of 11 passes for 44 yards and an interception. 

          Thompsons' Shadrick Byrd led all ground gainers with 170 yards on 24 totes. Central's Parrish & Spivey combined for 180 rushing yards. LSU commit Parrish was named the championship game MVP.

          2019 -In 2019 the Warriors captured their second title in school history and redeemed themselves from the previous year setback to the Red Devils. Thompson other state championship came in the 1982 Class 3A finals against Oxford.

          Amazingly, in comparing the Super 7 lineups from 2018 to 2019, Thompson returned just one starter on offense and two on defense while Central had two on offense and none on defense.  

          An opening drive fumble by the Warriors had Thompson fans wondering if they were destined for a repeat of last years letdown. Central-Phenix coughed the ball up on the ensuing possession and Thompson was off to the races. The Warriors placed 20 points on the scoreboard as Sawyer Pate ran for a touchdown and threw two others to J.B. Mitchell. The Red Devils squeezed in a second quarter score via a Trevion Miles 1-yard run.  

          Thompson kicker Evan McGuire booted a 38-yard field goal at the end of the half and tacked on another 22-yarder in the 3rd. He would also convert 5 of his 6 extra point attempts.  Anto Atkins II kept Central-Phenix hopes alive with his 11-yard rushing touchdown at the beginning of the 4th period. However, the Red Devils would get no closer as Thompson closed out the game behind 9-yard Jermel Gaiters and Sawyer Pate 7-yard runs. 

          Warrior quarterback Pate garnered MVP honors ending the game 14-for-22 with 239 yards passing including two touchdown tosses to combine with his two rushing scores.

          Turning the tables from the previous year, it was the Warriors defense that was dominant in the 40-14 victory over the Red Devils. Thompson allowed just one Central-Phenix third down conversion in eight attempts, forced three fumbles and added nine tackles-for-loss, two pass-breakups and a sack.

          McGwire isn't mentioned in the AHSAA championship game record book but his two field goals tied the Class 7A record held by Chase Mahler of McGill-Toolen and Crosby Gray of Spain Park.

          2021 - Following the 2019 campaign, Jamey DuBose left Central-Phenix for a position in Georgia.  Enter Patrick Nix. Nix took the top position with the Red Devils in 2020 after guiding Pinson Valley to two Class 6A championships in three years.  In his rookie season at Central, Nix finished 8-5.

          In 2021 Nix and his Red Devils caught fire amassing a team record 586 points including 77 in a second-round playoff game against Theodore. Not to be outdone Thompson accumulated 636 points, also a team record.

          It was a dream matchup with No. 2 Thompson and No. 3 Central-Phenix City becoming the first two AHSAA schools to play for a state championship at Protective Stadium in Birmingham. Thompson completed the coronation emerging with a 38-22 victory. For the Warriors it was their third consecutive Class 7A title.  

          Thompson broke quickly from the gate to establish a 14-0 first quarter lead behind backup quarterback Zach Sims touchdown passes to Duece Oliver (24 yards) and Justin Pegues (26 yards). By halftime the margin ballooned to 24-0 as Trevor Hardy added a 37-yard field goal and North Carolina commit Conner Harrell returned to the game from a first quarter injury to hook up with senior wide receiver Ryan Peppins for a 6-yard score. Peppins, a Utah commit, finished with seven catches for a record 203 yards and earned game MVP honors.

          Red Devil quarterback Caleb Nix targeted Karmel English and the duo produced the only score in the third quarter.

          Ultimately, miscues prevented Central from mounting any serious threat. In total, the Red Devils were penalized 16 times for 168 yards and turned the ball over four time including three interceptions.

          Both teams scored twice in the final stanza. For Thompson, Harrell had a 3-yard rushing touchdown and connected on a 73-yard pitch-and-catch with Peppins.  Trevor Hardy was a perfect 5 of 5 on extra points. Nix contributed a 6-yard Red Devil rushing score & threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Griffin.

          Harrell capped his career completing 10 of 16 passes for 271 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

          So, do you want to know going to happen at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday night?  I have gut  feeling it'll be an instant classic.  Maybe we'll see the first ever OT game in 7A history.

          As for the Barber Shop Gurus, they all agree it's going to be relatively close but they're split on the who's going to claim the Class 7A Blue Map trophy.  I'm not going to give away their thoughts.  You can simply click on the tab and find out for yourself.

          Also, I don't want to forget to congratulate our AISA state champions: AAA - Lee Scott, AA Chambers Academy, A Lowndes Academy and the 8-man winner Cornerstone Christian.

          Best of success to all of our teams this week. 
Sure, only seven teams will hoist that Blue Map high but it's been a whale of a season for each of our competing schools.

Kurt Duryea

Great Moments in Alabama High School Football History

The first football game played by a high school team in Alabama was in 1892 when Central Birmingham (Phillips) lost to Alabama 56-0 on November 11.