The high school football season in Alabama kicks off later this month with 165 games scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 18-20. After capping a 13-1 season with a 38-22 state title win over Central (Phenix City)
in the 7A state championship game last fall, Thompson (Alabaster)
headlines our look at this year's contenders in the preseason MaxPreps Top 25.
Thompson head coach Mark Freeman knows how to build state championship football teams. Since 2002, he has won nine state titles with three different schools beginning with four Alabama Independent School Association championship wins in six years at Bessemer Academy (Bessemer)
(2002, 2004, 2006, 2007). Freeman then ran off back-to-back Alabama High School Athletic Association state titles at Spanish Fort
in 2012 and 2013 before claiming the last three big school championships at Thompson.
There is no reason to believe he won't win another one this fall. In fact, the Warriors begin the 2022 season in a familiar place — atop the Alabama MaxPreps Top 25. Sure, two-year starting quarterback Conner Harrell will be donning a University of North Carolina jersey this fall after throwing for 6,372 yards and 83 touchdowns to just six interceptions the last two seasons at Thompson.
Also gone is receiver Ryan Peppins, who latched on to 80 passes for 1,379 yards and 23 scores a year ago. But shed no tears for Freeman and the Warriors. Junior quarterback Zach Sims
returns after throwing for nearly 500 yards a year ago. He briefly replaced Harrell in last fall's title game after Harrell suffered an apparent leg injury and staked the Warriors to a 14-0 advantage.Stanton Ramil
, a four-star offensive lineman according to 247Sports, returns to run interference for Sims. On the stop side of the ball, senior five-star gems Tony Mitchell
and Peter Woods
return as well. Mitchell produced 55 tackles, including four tackles for a loss, two interceptions, 11 pass deflections and forced a fumble. Woods, meanwhile, posted 92 tackles, 26 tackles for losses, 11 sacks, 30 quarterback hurries, an interception, two pass deflections, recovered and forced a fumble each and blocked a field goal.
Thompson will test its ranking right out of the gate as the Warriors open the season Aug. 19 at Georgia power Buford
. The Wolves have claimed three straight state championships themselves, taking the Georgia Class AAAAA state title in 2019 and winning the last two Class AAAAAA state championships.
Checking in at No. 2, Central handed Thompson a 52-7 defeat in the 2018 state title contest. Thompson, however, turned the momentum around and upended the Red Devils 40-14 in the state title game in 2019 and again last fall. Central will rely on five-star cornerback A.J. Harris
, four-star defensive lineman Tomarrion Parker
and four-star receiver Karmello English
to play key roles in reversing their fortunes against Freeman and Thompson.
Hueytown, last fall's Class 6A state runner-up, sits No. 3 while defending Class 6A state champion Clay-Chalkville and Hoover are Nos. 4 and 5, respectively. Defending Class 5A state champion Pike Road climbs into the No. 15 spot in our preseason poll. Thompson (No. 14), Central (No. 27) and Clay-Chalkville (No. 99) are all ranked nationally in Zack Poff's expanded top 100 rankings.
Read on for a complete look at Alabama's preseason Top 25 for 2022.
PRESEASON MAXPREPS TOP 25
1. Thompson (Alabaster)
, 13-1 record in 2021, Class 7A state champions
2. Central (Phenix City)
4. Clay-Chalkville (Pinson)
, 15-0, Class 6A state champions
7. Mountain Brook (Birmingham)
9. Hewitt-Trussville (Trussville)
10. Briarwood Christian (Birmingham)
11. Hillcrest (Tuscaloosa)
14. Montgomery Catholic (Montgomery)
15. Pike Road
, 15-0, Class 5A state champions
16. Homewood (Homewood)
17. Oak Mountain (Birmingham)
18. Baker (Mobile)
21. Pinson Valley (Pinson)
22. Muscle Shoals
24. Vestavia Hills
25. Jackson-Olin (Birmingham)