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2020 Coach of the Year: Mark Freeman, Thompson High, AL

Freeman takes another program, Thompson, to the top

The Freeman File:

Coach: Mark Freeman

School: Thompson High (Ala.)

Championship: Won Class 7A Alabama State Championship

Record at Thompson (2015-19): 45-14

Career record as head coach: 209-51

AISA Football Coach of the Year: 2000, 2004, 2005, 2007

Bessemer Academy: Head coach from 1998-2007 (won four AISA titles)

Spanish Fort: Head coach from 2011-2014 (won two Class 5A titles)

Even for a coach with Mark Freeman’s impressive resume, taking Thompson to a Class 7A championship seemed like a lofty goal when he took over as head coach in 2014.

Thompson was coming off an 0-10 season, and Freeman seemed a long way from the programs that he led to state championships six times as a head coach – four with his alma mater Bessemer Academy (2002, 2004, 2005, 2007) and two with Spanish Fort (2012, 2013).

However, winning is exactly what Freeman has done at Thompson over the last five seasons, to the tune of a 45-14 record. This season, he fulfilled his promise to take Thompson to a Class 7A championship after falling to Central-Phenix City last season in the state title game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Playing against the same team on the same field this season, Thompson dethroned Central-Phenix City 40-14.

“Coach and I have been together for a long time, and he’s got amazing faith,” said Thompson athletic director Vincent Pitts. “What we do in our building and what we do outside our building is all about glorifying God. We’ve seen things happen we never would have dreamed of.

“I am thankful he is our coach; I’m appreciative of his hard work and the hard work of our coaching staff and players, and I’m thankful for the support of our amazing administration, including our principal, Dr. Wesley Hester, and our superintendent, Dr. Wayne Vickers.”

Senior quarterback Sawyer Pate threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more in the championship game. The win gives the Warriors just the second state football title in school history and the first since 1982.

“What an amazing story authored by God,” Freeman said. “Sawyer was a first-year starter completely committed to working to elevate his game and making a name for himself after playing in relief of starter Taulia Tagovailoa in 2018.

“What a difference a year makes. This year, the kid that sat in the quarterbacks’ room for two years and sat behind Taulia starts grinding and working to get better. He was the MVP of the state championship game. I don’t think you write a better story than that.”

In the state-title game, Thompson (12-1) took control early, leading 23-7 at the half and 26-7 entering the final quarter.

“We came into the game and felt like we had a couple of matchups we really liked,” said Freeman in an interview with Al.com after the game.

Finally, Freeman mentioned how proud he was of his players, his coaching staff and how appreciative he was of  the fans, parents and community for all of their support. He is thankful to his administration and board of education for their hard work, support and vision to become “Champions of the Future”.