The Improbable Comeback: Thompson v. Auburn Alabama 7A State Championship - EdjVarsity

The Improbable Comeback: Thompson v. Auburn Alabama 7A State Championship

What an incredible game down in Alabama. If there were ever a year for an ending like this it would be in 2020. A year full of unprecedented events, just added another one to the ever growing list. Thompson defeated Auburn High School to defend their state title by a final score of 29-28. Thompson found themselves trailing Auburn 19-28 with about a minute remaining in the 4th quarter. The Warriors had a win probability of just 1% as Auburn began to run out the clock. Then an improbable sequence of events resulted in a comeback for the ages that left the announcers, fans, and analysts speechless.

Leading up to the final minute of the game, it had been a quality game both from the players and the coaches. We want to highlight some of the significant plays on both sides that led up to the final minute of the game.

Auburn Highlights

Coach Winegarden and his staff executed a fantastic game plan, and his team came out and provided a great game as the underdogs in this championship game. Their team executed extremely well on 4th down decisions and had impactful plays on offense and defense.

Auburn 4th down Execution

In the 2nd quarter with 10:45 remaining facing a 4th and 1 on the Thompson 41-yard line trailing 0-6, Auburn decided to go for it and converted. Later in the same drive with 8:40 remaining facing another 4th and 1 from the Thompson 30-yard line, Auburn went for it again and converted. Both 4th down conversions added +5% win probability.

In the 3rd quarter with 9:49 remaining facing a 4th and 1 on the Thompson 44-yard line leading 14-13, Auburn decided to go for it. This was the correct call as it increased their pre-snap win probability by +7%. In addition to the correct go call, they scored on the play adding +12% to their win probability as they increased their lead to 21-13.

Auburn’s Defensive Impact

Auburn’s defense played a huge role in this game by stopping Thompson’s offense from establishing long drives and forcing multiple turnovers. Here are some examples from our live-in game tweets highlighting their strong defensive effort.

Auburn’s Offensive Impact

In what was a close game, Auburn’s offense also contributed with big scores.

After getting shutout in the 1st quarter and trailing 0-6 the Auburn offense got on the board with 6:33 remaining in the 2nd quarter. The passing TD was set up by the two 4th down conversions we highlighted earlier. The score made it 7-6 and increased their win probability by +10%.

Later that quarter after giving up a touchdown to Thompson making it 13-7, Auburn responded with two big strikes through the air for their second score of the game. The second TD drive made the score 14-13 and increased their win probability by +9%.

In the 3rd quarter after their successful 4th down conversion highlighted above in which they scored, their defense forced a big three and out. This gave them great starting field position on the Thompson 15-yard line as seen in the tweets above. Auburn was able to capitalize on the tremendous field position five plays later with a rushing TD. With that score, Auburn increased their lead to 28-13 with 6:18 left in 3rd quarter and increased their win probability by +6%.

Thompson Highlights

The defending champs came into the games with fairly even matchup but were still favored in the passing game for at least the first half. The Warriors offense had a solid first half and their defense kept them in this game. Coach Freeman also made a few impactful 4th down calls.

Thompson 4th down Execution

With 10:55 remaining in the 1st quarter and facing a 4th and 4 from the Auburn 49-yard line Coach Freeman decided to go for it. This was the correct call for the Warriors as it increased their win probability by +2%.

Later in the 1st quarter, with 8:40 remaining Thompson faced a 4th and 16 from their own 29-yard line. Coach Freeman made the correct decision by punting the ball in the 0-0 game which increased their win probability by +4%

The final impactful 4th down call made by Coach Freeman came in the 3rd quarter when the Warriors trailed 13-21. With 8:39 remaining and facing a 4th and 32 they correctly punted which increased their win probability by +3%.

Thompson’s Offensive Impact

In the 1st quarter, Thompson made the most of two big passing plays: a 50-yard bomb worth +7% win probability alone, followed by a 16-yard TD strike that capped off the scoring drive adding an increase in win probability of +13%. Thompon’s missed XP cost them -8% in win probability but they led 6-0 with 5:13 remaining in the 1st quarter.

After an Auburn score making it 7-6, Thompson faced a 3rd and 4 on their own 35-yard line. They were able to hit a receiver on a busted coverage play for a huge TD that increased their win probability by +18% and they regained the lead 13-7.

At the start of the second half, Thompon’s offense cratered when their starting QB left the game with an injury. Their next offensive score wouldn’t come until the 4th quarter after their defense forced a huge fumble and recovered deep in Auburn territory. The score only increased their win probability by 2%. They decided to go for the two-point conversion which was the correct call by our model but failed to convert. Thompson still trailed 19-28 with 8:48 remaining in the 4th quarter.

Thompson’s Defensive Impact

Throughout the game Thompson’s defensive effort kept them in the game. Especially in second half when their starting QB went down. The Warrior’s defense held Auburn’s offense to 4 scores providing Thompson with just enough room to squeeze out an incredible comeback.  Check out some of the Warriors defensive efforts we highlighted during the game on twitter.

The Final Minute

Auburn regained possession of the ball with 1:19 remaining in the 4th quarter from the Thompson 20-yard line after Thompson failed to convert on a 4th down effort. Thompson used their final two timeouts as Auburn looked to kneel out the clock. Thompson’s win probability was less than 1% at this point.

A few plays later, Auburn faced a 4th and 35 on the Thompson 25-yard line. Auburn decided to punt the ball. The Thompson special teams unit blocked the punt and returned it for a touchdown. After the TD and converting the XP Thompson trailed Auburn 26-28 with 0:18 seconds remaining in the game. A score wins it for Thompson, but they would need to recover an onside kick.

Their special teams unit lined up for the onside kick and successfully recovered! The Warriors would start their final drive with 0:18 seconds remaining in the game, on their own 40-yard line with no timeouts and a win probability of 1%.

After the first two plays of the drive, Thompson faced a 2nd and 10 from the Auburn 33-yard line with 0:10 seconds remaining. Thompson heaved a bomb towards the endzone were able to draw a DPI call. This moved them to a 1st and 10 from the Auburn 18-yard line with 0:04 seconds remaining in the game.

The DPI penalty put Thompson in makeable field goal range. Thompson set up for the 35-yard field goal and converted as time expired! The walk off comeback field goal capped off an improbable 79 seconds resulting in Thompson defeating Auburn by a final score of 29-28 and defending their Alabama 7A state title!

Watch the last minute here:

Bottom line

This was one of the most incredible comebacks in recent football history. Thompson totally flipped the script in a little over a minute and gained +99% win probability.

As we highlighted, it was not for lack of effort on Auburn’s part at all. It was an extremely well executed game by Coach Winegarden and his team who just saw a championship slip through their hands.

Everyone including fans, the announcers, and our staff seemed ready to crown Auburn the 7A champions. Thompson’s effort to stay in the game is a testament to Coach Freeman and his staff. As we always say every decision matters in games like these and no truer words were ever spoken.

Congratulations to Coach Freeman and the Thompson Warriors on your championship and improbable comeback.

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