ALABASTER, Ala. -- As we crossed the state line into Alabama and got a phone call from an old friend, he already knew which game SI All-American was traveling to in person.
"The Thompson game, right?"
Alabaster (Ala.) Thompson, ranked as the nation's No. 5 high school football team via SB Live, was to put its undefeated record on the line against another Birmingham-area program known for winning and producing college football prospects: Hewitt-Trussville High.
The entire state of Alabama seemingly descended upon Warrior Stadium and the home team put on a show, on both sides of the ball, en route to a commanding 42-9 win that was seldom in doubt. The game had a bit of everything within it: shots to the third level, big hits, defensive and special teams scores as well.
SIAA breaks down the prospects who commanded attention in the biggest prep game in 'Bama thus far in 2021.
Edge Jeremiah Alexander (Committed to Alabama) - If there was an MVP award for the game, it would go to the Crimson Tide linebacker commitment, who was all over the field for Thompson. Alexander had several tackles, including a couple for loss, but really changed the game against the pass. Alexander forced two turnovers (one on downs), including tipping a pass that would be intercepted and returned for a touchdown. He nearly registered a safety on his four-sack evening.
QB Conner Harrell (North Carolina) - Harrell pushed Alexander for our theoretical MVP honors with a clean performance against a very good defense. Even as the rain drew heavier in the second half of the game, Harrell protected the ball while also taking big shots on two of his four touchdown passes. The future Tar Heel also used his legs well when things broke down, somehow avoiding the big hits along the way. There is a maturity and control about Harrell's game that could translate quite well at the next level. He has 18 touchdowns against one interception in 2021.
IDL Peter Woods - The elite junior recruit is hearing from the nation's best, and Clemson had multiple assistants on hand to check him out. Sporting Clemson gloves, he didn't disappoint, combining with Alexander on multiple sacks and making several stops against the run at or behind the line. Woods' short-area quickness relative to his size (listed at 6'4", 240 pounds) is head turning on its own, and the strength and motor are also there, part of the reason Alabama, Georgia, Oregon and everyone else recruit him hard.
DB Trequon Fegans (Miami) - The Miami pledge battled with Auburn commitment Omari Kelly (more on him below) and held his own. He was in the hip pocket of his assignment more times than not, made multiple plays on the football en route to passes broken up, and had the hit of the night as well. Fegans is incredibly long, confident at the line of scrimmage, and plenty willing to support the run. Few programs will challenge his side of the field the rest of the 2021 season.
WR Ryan Peppins (Western Kentucky) - Every time you watch Thompson play, someone asks, 'Who is that number two?' It's Peppins, the diminutive WKU pledge who just makes plays. He is small, cat-quick and plays with great body control, but he has some polish to his name as well. Sure, you can hand him the ball, let him run under it or play in between, but there are true ball skills at work with his game. Peppins' first (of two) touchdown grabs Friday night featured tracking over the shoulder, a slide and spatial awareness not to run through the back of the end zone. A steal is on the way to Bowling Green, Kentucky.
DB Tony Mitchell - Another elite junior on the loaded Thompson roster, Mitchell worked at safety and wasn't challenged down the field very much, thanks in large part to the great group the Warriors sport up front. But in run support, he made a mark, filling the alley with a big hit on the opposing QB to force a fumble and create a turnover. Mitchell also looked noticeably bigger and more filled out on his impressive 6'2" frame. No wonder it's programs like Georgia, where he visited over the weekend, Alabama, Clemson, Florida and others still in on the one-time Tennessee commitment.
LB Jax Van Zandt (North Texas) - Working under the tutelage of former Georgia and UAB linebacker Jake Ganus, it's easy to compare he and the North Texas commitment at times. More importantly, Van Zandt looks to be at full strength since the last time we saw him, when he was recovering from a knee injury. His instincts have been head-turning since he was a freshman contributor for the Warriors, and he's only picked up more polish and consistency along the way. The Mean Green have a steal on the commitment list.
OL Stanton Ramil - The 6'7" junior offensive tackle protects Harrell's blindside and did so quite well on this night. He may be relatively raw, but the length and size stand out on their own with the junior. Ramil moved from Binghamton, New York to Alabaster before the season and his recruitment has risen all at the same time. Pitt, Colorado, UCF and South Florida have each offered him, and he visited Alabama for their home opener against Mercer. As his game improves, against elite competition, expect several more tenders his way.
DB Trevor Hardy (Memphis) - We didn't know much about the Tiger pledge coming into the evening, but we know plenty now. With great length, he lines up at cornerback opposite Fegans and has made the most of the work as opponents stay away from the Miami pledge. We counted three passes broken up for Hardy in tight windows, with the right combination of physicality and timing at the catch point. On a 6'2" frame we could see him working boundary corner or safety at the next level.
RB Justin Pegues - It's shocking to know his only interest is coming from the Division III ranks at this point. He was the prospect on Thompson's roster we had to google more than the others because the senior flashed quickness, vision and some explosiveness in the win. Pegues is 185 pounds or so and he runs hard, part of the reason he racked up 114 yards on just 13 carries against a prospect-laden defense. Keep an eye on this one.
WR Jaylen Ward (Middle Tennessee State) - Strikingly tall in person and productive opposite Peppins is Ward. A boundary, classic WR1 type, he runs with great stride and tracks the football well, even in the rain. Ward has averaged a score per game in 2021 ands has 370 yards on just 15 receptions to date, so he's not too shabby after the catch at his size, either.
IDL Justice Finkley (Texas) - The most physically-impressive prospect on the field from a muscular standpoint, it really masks the fact that the Texas commitment isn't incredibly tall or long. Finkley is a leverage monster off the line of scrimmage and sheds blocks with relative ease en route to the quarterback or tailback. He finishes with authority and has strong lateral ability relative to his mass, making college defensive line coaches have a potential weapon who could work inside or out in most defenses. Throw in high intelligence and Finkley's floor is quite high.
WR Omari Kelly (Auburn) - Lengthy and steady, there is a lot to like with the frame and profile of the future Auburn Tiger. Kelly isn't going to blow the top off of a college defense, but his length commands vertical attention, and he can counter with the ability to settle his hips and drive on underneath routes. In this matchup with Fegans, it was back-and-forth and the competitiveness on each side stood out. Kelly is comfortable working in traffic, and can win the edge in space after the catch as he showed on a 55-yard touchdown in the second half.
IDL Hunter Osborne - If there is a junior on Hewitt-Trussville's roster to watch it's Osborne, the red-hot recruit who makes it easy to see why in person. He is an active edge presence at 6'4" or better, with length and power in his game. Osborne broke up a Harrell pass at the line of scrimmage and made strong contact plays when flashing on this night. As the technical aspect catches up to Finkley's, the younger Husky could end up as the more coveted recruit. Osbourne's latest scholarship offers include Michigan, Illinois, Nebraska, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Mississippi State, Memphis and Louisville in September.
OL Riley Quick - The younger brother of Alabama offensive lineman Pierce Quick, Riley could give him a run for his money as a football prospect. Like big bro, he plays on both sides of the ball and flashed as both a blocker and high-motor defensive lineman on a strong 6'6" frame. Unlike big bro, Quick is also an elite baseball player, projected to pitch in college with a fastball exceeding 90 miles per hour. While the upside, especially if he were to move on from baseball, is easy to project in football -- the senior has already made a decision. He will play baseball at Alabama, unless the MLB draft is too much to pass up.
QB Cade Carruth - Two turnovers, thanks to that staggering Thompson defense, may have clouded judgement on Carruth's ability but one thing cannot following the punishment he took Friday night. The senior is incredibly tough and showed his teammates just how much in a losing effort. As both a passer, with high-risk high-reward decisions, and as a runner -- things didn't come easy. Carruth still managed to move the ball on Thompson better than any QB this year and he has the type of 'gamer' mentality a college program could one day rally around. He has been to Clemson, Mississippi State, UAB, Liberty and Middle Tennessee since the summertime and sports offers from South Alabama, New Mexico, MTSU, Jacksonville State, Gardner Webb and Murray State.