High school football in the St. Louis metro-east has produced a string out outstanding individual performances in 2016.
Just in the last two weeks, for example, local players have produced five 300-yard rushing games.
But a very few have been as consistently outstanding week to week as Central’s Collin Thomas, who topped 1,000 yards for the season with his second straight 200-yard game Friday in Red Bud. The senior running back, and the BND Player of the Week, rolled over the previously unbeaten Musketeers with 268 yards and three touchdowns.
A week earlier, he blitzed Mater Dei with 216 yards and six touchdowns in the annual Milk Bowl, one of the fiercest rivalry games in the region.
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“We knew as soon as the season ended last year that we had a chance to be special,” Thomas said. “We have numbers, which is good because it gives us depth.”
Sometimes, Coach Short asks if I need a breather, and I realize I have to go into play defense after I've just had a hard series. I have to keep up on both sides of the ball.
Collin Thomas, BND Player of the Week
Thomas’ 124 total points rank him fourth in the entire St. Louis region and tops in the metro-east, just four points ahead of Red Bud’s Ryan Hess and 16 ahead of Triad quarterback Tommy Bauer, who topped 300 yards Friday against Mascoutah.
He’s 14th in total rushing yards and averages 9.2 yards per carry.
“It’s mostly between the tackles and he’s giving us a lot of yards after first contact,” said Central’s 10th-year head coach Brian Short. “He’s pretty good running to the outside, too, but he’s really tough once he gets his shoulders square.”
But what makes Thomas’ season totals all the more remarkable is that he alternates offensive possessions with teammate Ben Rakers, who has his own six-game string of 100-yard games.
“It’s one of those deals where we sat both guys down before the season and told them we knew it would be frustrating to not play every down, but it makes us better,” Short said. “We keep their legs fresh and each gives us a little different look.”
Thomas actually says the down time helps since he is called upon to lead on both sides of the line of scrimmage. He has 27 total tackles pulling double duty as a linebacker and has covered a team-high three fumbles.
He's pretty good running to the outside, too, but he's really tough once he gets his shoulders square.
Brian Short, Central head football coach on senior running back Collin Thomas
“Sometimes, Coach Short asks if I need a breather, and I realize I have to go into play defense after I’ve just had a hard series,” Thomas said. “I have to keep up on both sides of the ball. Ben is just as talented as I am. He’s fast, if not faster and we both get the job done. So, I have no problem sharing the backfield with him.”
The Cougars ability to push the ball down field at a clip of 353 rushing yards per game starts with a deep offensive front that Short said would be dominant even before the season’s first snap.
Tackles Joe Raterman, Domonic Weary, guards Tanner Huegen and Tyler Gorsich, and center Branden Hooker have met all of his expectations. Jake Arter and Jason Johnson get plenty of snaps as well.
“We’ve got seven guys on the line and they are all seniors, so I don’t know what else we could expect from this group,” Short said. “With Collin and Ben in the backfield, we knew we’d be able to run the ball.”
THOMAS YARDS BY GAME vs. Mascoutah, 81 @ Dupo, 152 vs. Freeburg, 166 @ Carlyle, 167 vs. Mater Dei, 216 @ Red Bud, 262
At 6-0, the Cougars climbed a spot to No. 8 on this week’s Associated Press Illinois class 5A high school football poll. They face their second undefeated opponent in as many weeks when they play host to Cahokia Conference Mississippi Division rival Columbia.
The Eagles haven’t lost a conference game in more than four years.
“It kind of feels like our year, but no matter what, it’s going to be a dog fight with Columbia,” Thomas said. “That’s just how it is when two good teams play each other. We’re going to prepare for them like we do every game.”
Central closes out the regular season with Wesclin and Herrin.