HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) _ Dealing with a nagging injury, Hattiesburg High School senior safety Walton Thompson only could watch from the sidelines as his teammates went against Petal High School in an Aug. 28 jamboree.
But when the curtain officially rose on the 2020 football season, Thompson more than showed he was a gamer.
Thompson accounted for half of Laurel High School’s six turnovers Friday night, coming up with three of the Tigers' four interceptions as Hattiesburg won The Battle for the Lil' Brown Jug for the fifth time in six years.
For his efforts, Thompson was selected as WDAM-TV’s “Player of the Week.”
“Defensively, he set the tone with what we were going to do and take away their passing game and limit what they could do,” HHS coach Tony Vance said. "He did an outstanding job, (three) great interceptions and almost had another in the south end zone.
“He came up huge for us in the secondary and set the tone for us there.”
Thompson said he was just happy to make a contribution in the storied rivalry.
The Hattiesburg-Laurel game stands as the longest, continuously played rivalry in Mississippi. Hattiesburg had won The Lil' Brown Jug game five consecutive seasons before Laurel snapped the streak in 2019.
“It was special because it’s a big rivalry game,” Thompson said. “They took The Jug back from us last year, so it was very important with it being my senior year and getting it back.”
Thompson said he was able to be in the right place at the right time by just focusing on the game plan the coaching staff had prepared.
"I was just playing my keys, and reading the quarterback a lot, so i was able to maintain (coverage) and get a lot of interceptions off that.
“The offense was doing good, so it provided momentum for both sides of the ball.”
The 5-foot-11, 165-pound Thompson played freshman football but decided not to play as a sophomore.
The year away from the game gnawed at him.
“Sitting out a year and seeing how good the team was, I just missed being out here,” Thompson said. “So, I’m playing my last year with a lot of guys I’ve been growing up with.”
Vance said Thompson has proved to be a valuable asset on and off the field.
“Great teammate, and that’s what we preach to all of them,” Vance said. “Be a great teammate, and he has for our football team.”
And Thompson came up big for his teammates in what traditionally is the Hattiesburg’s biggest game of the year. "It’s special not only for me as a head coach, and these guys on the field, but also for our school and our city of Hattiesburg.
“So, definitely, a special feeling when you win The Lil' Brown Jug and bring it back home where it belongs.”