In the world of South Puget Sound League football, live-arm, big-game quarterbacks have always been part of the history.
Drew Miller ... Damon Huard ... Billy Jo Hobert ... Brock Huard ... Jason Johnson ... Johnny DuRocher ... Marc Weekly ... Darren Erath ... Carl Bonnell.
Even now, the league has its share of quality signal callers. Puyallup’s Brendan Illies is a star in the making whose best sport is probably baseball. Tahoma’s Shane Nelson is a smooth-performing, three-year starter for the Bears. And Kent-Meridian’s Quincy Carter can throw the ball by defenders as well as run past them.
Then there is Auburn Riverside’s Kevin Thomson, who may not have the name as some of the others, but he certainly has the game.
Ask some of the area’s coaches, such as Auburn’s Gordon Elliott, which quarterbacks impress them the most, they will bring up Thomson. He can pass. He can run. He can pass on the run.
“He is a quarterback,” Elliott said, “who can put pressure on a defense.”
Thing is, Thomson led a 1-9 Ravens’ squad last season, finishing tied for last in the SPSL North, so few people cared to notice.
Now they might. After Bob Morgan stepped down after six seasons, Auburn Riverside hired longtime Federal Way assistant Bryant Thomas to infuse a new philosophy and optimism into the program.
The early returns are promising: The Ravens are 2-0 for the first time since 2006, and they host Nelson and the Bears on Friday night to at least maintain a share of the division lead.
When Thomas and Marcus Yzaguirre – longtime staff members together at Federal Way – were discussing the coaching vacancy at Auburn Riverside, both watched film of the Ravens’ games, jotted down thoughts – then eventually compared notes.
One positive they kept touching on was the school’s returning quarterback – Thomson.
“The (previous) coaching staff left some good things in place,” Thomas said. “And we’ve got to start with a quarterback, no matter what the scheme is, who is a pretty special player.”
Thing is last season, Thomson was running four different offensive schemes, depending on the opponent and circumstance. Fortunately one of them was the pistol offense, which is the backbone of Yzaguirre’s attack as the offensive coordinator.
The Ravens’ pistol spread option would seem to be the ideal offense for Thomson to run. He is big enough (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) to survey the entire field from back of center. He is mobile enough to tuck it and run. He is intelligent enough to know when to pass and when to run. And his arm strength is a pure athletic gift.
Four years ago, Thomson began seeking outside counsel. He attended a few Barton Football Academy camps. And two summers ago, the teenager got his hands on a flier promoting a weekend summer passing combine coming to Bonney Lake High School – Football University.
That is where he met Chad Carpenter, a former Washington State University quarterback-turned-receiver who spent four seasons in the NFL. He was FBU’s primary quarterbacks’ coach.
“I learned so much at that camp that I didn’t know before,” Thomson said. “And when we did our one-on-one conversation at the end of the camp, he told me about his training.”
Thomson and his father, Jim, were so impressed, they decided to hire Carpenter as a full-time personal instructor.
Thomson has flown to Arizona where Carpenter lives for private workouts. He has attended three more FBU combines – two in Seattle and one in Los Angeles – to get more work with Carpenter.
But most of the interaction happens strictly through the computer.
The cycle is simple: Carpenter will give Thomson three aspects of quarterbacking – mainly footwork and throwing-motion drills – to work on. And every seven-to-10 days, Thomson will have those drills videotaped by either his father, or a couple of friends.
“I am not trying to look perfect,” Thomson said.
The raw footage is then uploaded to a YouTube account for Carpenter to evaluate.
“It is actually a little bit better that way because as a coach, when you see stuff firsthand, it goes by so fast,” Carpenter said. “But when you get video, you can break it all down.
“Not to mention, these kids are so much into visual things. To show him on video, he sees himself doing it and he understands it whereas a lot of times in person, he might not understand it.
“He’s gotten a ton better at throwing it. And he has some natural skills you just cannot teach.”
Thomas doesn’t pretend to be a quarterback guru. But he knows Carpenter is, especially because the two of them played at WSU together.
So the understanding is simple: Thomas coaches up schemes and strategy with Thomson, and largely stays out of the technical advice.
If the Ravens continue to win games, make progress and possibly have a shot to reach the Class 4A state playoffs, the payoff could be huge for Thomson.
“It is the most important year of my football career so far,” said Thomson, who has no college scholarship offers, but has been heavily monitored by Wyoming, San Jose State, North Dakota and Eastern Washington.
“We might have a chance to go to the state playoffs. And my future could be possibly based on how we do this year. I am just focusing on my senior year and enjoying it – with school, football and even baseball – and not worrying too much in what the future is.”Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/preps @ManyHatsMilles