Class 2A Player of the Year, Hunter Thomas, Southern Columbia
Southern Columbia has had its share of great runners throughout the years, but it would be awfully difficult to keep Hunter Thomas off of the school’s Mount Rushmore for running backs. “It was such an honor to play for the most accomplished program in all of Pennsylvania high school football. I’m going to miss putting on that Tiger uniform and competing on Friday nights in front of all of our loyal fans,” said Thomas who was named to the Class AA all-state squad for the past two seasons.
Coming off of being the top offensive weapon on last year’s state championship winning team, Thomas’ regular season didn’t go as he had planned this year. The senior was hampered with injuries causing him to miss two games and parts of two others with knee and ankle issues. “It was really frustrating because I wanted to be out there contributing every play. Being that it was my senior season made it even tougher,” the running back said. Even with the time missed due to injury, he still finished with 1,540 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns averaging 10.9 yards per carry. Receiving the football, Thomas averaged 21.7 yards per reception by catching 19 passes for 413 yards and three scores.
Just as important as his production, it was the leadership that Thomas displayed on the gridiron that made him that much more valuable. “I knew once I was chosen as a captain that it was going to be important to guide the younger guys. We probably had less returning starters this season than anyone else in the state,” Thomas said. After rehabbing his injuries, the versatile back was the leading rusher during this year’s playoff run in helping the Tigers earn a trip to Hershey and a state silver finishing with a record of 15-1. He is also considered to be one of the best blocking backs to come through the Southern Columbia program which he took just as much pride in. “Hitting is fun and being able to contribute in blocking to see others score is just as rewarding as scoring yourself,” said Thomas.
He ends his career with the 5th most rushing yards in school history finishing with 3,828. However, his 11.3 yards per carry is the most ever breaking the old school mark set by Ricco Rosinini of 10.1 yards per attempt. He found the end zone 55 times on the ground in his career. He also became the career leader for the most catches ever by a Tiger running back with 65, and his 1,178 career receiving yards also top the list for running backs. “I just loved competing to win. I didn’t care if it was running, catching, or blocking because I just wanted to help the team however I could,” Thomas said. Including everyone else, Thomas finishes 3rd in career catches and 4th in receiving yards.
The loss of Thomas will be a major void in all due respect to whoever wins the job next year. However the Tigers run a Delaware Wing-T formation with multiple backs on the field. The other halfback, freshman Gaige Garcia, will return for the next three seasons. “Gaige had an unbelievable year and I’m excited to see what he is going to do in the future as a Tiger,” said Thomas. Garcia, who was just as worthy for this award as Thomas, broke the Pennsylvania freshman rushing record this season with 1,938 and didn’t even play in the state championship because of a broken ankle suffered the week prior.
The duo of Garcia and Thomas was the first in SCA history to each go over 1,500 yards rushing in the same season. “We have had some great running backs come through the program, but the combination of Thomas and Garcia will go down as one of the best for what they did this past season,” said Southern Columbia head coach Jim Roth. “Hunter was so valuable running and catching as well as blocking which makes him one of the best to come through our program. He had that combination of speed and power running the football that you don’t get to see often at the high school level.”
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