Britney Bailey for the Tribune
ALABASTER– Clay-Chalkville’s redemption tour continued as the Cougars got their chance at revenge against 17th nationally ranked Thompson in Warrior Stadium last night.
The Cougars (6-0) left Alabaster with a hard-fought 36-33 victory over Thompson (4-1).
The Warriors, who have won the AHSAA 7A State Championship four consecutive years, defeated the 6A Cougars 17-16 last season.
The Warriors have now only lost four games to Alabama schools over the past five years.
Thompson took an early 13-0 lead in the first half on touchdowns from running back AJ Green and wide receiver Colben Landrew.
A blocked PAT by the Cougars kept the lead at 13 and would be one of two key plays that would come back to haunt the Warriors.
Cougar quarterback and Alabama commit Jaylen Mbakwe, celebrating his 18th birthday, took matters into his own hands and put up two touchdowns to give the Cougars a 14-13 lead at the half.
Thompson rallied back in the third quarter to take a six-point lead on a 64-yard pass from freshman phenom Trent Seaborn (14-of-25 for 268 yards) to Kolby Hearn.
The Warriors elected to go for two after the score. The 2-point conversions failed after a Thompson receiver could not hang onto the ball in the back of the end zone.
The failed conversion, along with the previously blocked PAT, would end up costing Thompson a chance to send the game to overtime.
A Mbakwe interception on the Cougars’ next drive, his second of the night, continued the Thompson momentum.
Seaborn and the Warriors quickly capitalized on the opportunity with a 45-yarder to Landrew to give the Warriors a 26-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Cougar running back Aaron Osley’s hard running set up another Clay score.
Mbakwe scored on a one-yard run to cut the Warrior’s lead to five
The Cougar defense held the Warriors to a three-and-out on their next possession.
Mbawke scored on a 6-yard touchdown run with 3:42 to play to put the Cougars back in the lead 27-26.
A 2-point conversion pass to offensive lineman, and Oregon commit Jac’qawn McCroy gave the Cougars a three-point lead.
Cougar linebacker Rod Ivy continued the momentum by snagging an interception off Seaborn which led to a 19-yard Mbawke touchdown run with 1:22 to play.
The Cougars held a 36-26 lead.
Thompson wasn’t done and scored on a 79-yard pass from Seaborn to Hearn to make the score 36-33 after the PAT.
Thompson recovered a perfectly executed onsides kick with :30 seconds to go in the game.
The Warriors moved into field goal position but a delay of game penalty would force a 43-yard field goal with 3.3 seconds on the clock.
The kick sailed wide left and the Cougars secured the victory.
“We asked a lot of him,“ said Cougar head coach Drew Gilmer of Mbakwe. “We had him play some DB there at the end.”
“Heck of a kid, heck of a person.”
The Cougars rolled up 320 yards on the ground.
“That has to be our identity,” Gilmer said. “We gotta be a physical football team, and I thought we were tonight.”
“If we do that, we have a chance to win every football game.”
Mbakwe, the number four ranked player in the ESPN 300 rankings, finished with five touchdowns on the ground, 10-13 passing for 100 yards and 168 rushing yards.
“I want to say thank you to my offensive line,” Mbakwe said. “We have been working hard all week and we have been preaching that we can beat them.”
The five star commit even got some playing time at his old position in the secondary and had a critical pass breakup.
“It’s natural to play corner back,” he said. “They have been telling me all week that I’d be rusty.”
“I said no, I just have to stay level headed and play ball.”
Clay-Chalkville will travel to Huffman next Friday night.