After two years leading the Thunder Mountain attack under center, senior quarterback Camden Thomas feels like he knows the ins and outs of the offense and he’s ready to show what he can do.
“Three years of varsity football is a great learning experience. The first year, I learned a lot. And last year we had such great running backs,” he said. “Now, I really know how to lead the team and I know my guys. They look to me and I can teach them a lot, and they can still teach me a lot.
“We still have plenty of unfinished business from last year. It was tough to lose the playoff game and we want to come back from that. But I’m really confident for the start of the season.”
Thomas said the offense will have more variation this year after being predominantly run-heavy last season.
“We’re looking to have more of a balanced attack this year,” he said. “We mostly ran the ball last year and we had a really good running game. We can pound the ball this year, too, but I think we’ll be more balanced.”
Thomas attended a national underclassman combine in Boise, Idaho, in April, where he earned QB MVP. The camp noted that Thomas has good feet, is competitive and has a lot of raw talent.
Now he’s ready to show some polish to his game.
“It was a really good experience to be exposed to that kind of talent and to see what coaches want to see from a quarterback,” Thomas said. “They trained us in all of the agility drills and how to read defenses.”
He said he’s been working with his receivers and feels like they’re getting their timing down.
“And I feel a lot better at the start of this season,” he said. “We’re really confident and we have high expectations. We feel like we’re going to state and we want to go undefeated again. Once you’ve had that feeling, you want to feel it again.”
He also cut his 40-yard dash time down to 5.3 seconds, and Thomas said he expects to help the team this year by carrying the ball more.
Part of being a quarterback is shouldering the burden of leadership. When you win, quarterbacks often get too much credit. But when you lose, they also get more of the blame. Thomas said the biggest lesson he learned from the loss to Soldotna in the playoffs last year was the team didn’t approach the game the right way. Few of the players had ever played in a postseason game before that night, and their lack of big-game experience showed on the field.
“We didn’t treat it like any other game,” Thomas said. “We were thinking too much about what was going to happen more than actually playing like we had the whole season. We were tight. Only two guys had ever been to a playoff game before and we didn’t know what it was going to be like, especially playing against the top seed and a really strong team.”
Byouer said he has complete confidence in his third-year starter, and his main critique is that Thomas must maintain his focus at all times.
“I’m really confident in his ability to lead the offense,” he said. “His arm is stronger. He has to step up again this year. He’s scrambling more and he’s able to run the ball more effectively.
“He’s really becoming a complete quarterback.”