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Thomson leads Ravens to quick start in SPSL North 4A football
Three games into the high school football season and Auburn Riverside finds itself in an unfamiliar but welcome spot – undefeated and atop the South Puget Sound League North 4A standings.
The surprising Ravens already have won more games this season than last, when they went a woeful 1-9.
Any questions as to whether this Auburn Riverside squad – led by first-year coach Bryant Thomas – is the real deal were laid to rest last Friday when the Ravens came from behind to beat powerhouse Tahoma, 49-35.
"Coming into the Tahoma game we told them they were playing a team that was picked by everyone to win this league," Thomas said. "They have great receivers. They're a great team. This will be a benchmark for (the Ravens)."
The Ravens overcame a 28-21 halftime deficit, and in the second half held Tahoma to just one touchdown. The effort is a testament to the team's newfound confidence.
"We found out early in that game that there is going to be some adversity," Thomas said. "But the kids stayed the course and kept their eyes on the prize. We just need to continue to work and fight, and they did.
"The kids believe in what we're teaching them," he continued. "The kids know that we believe in them. We always felt like the talent is here, and now they have the belief and confidence."
A big part of that success and confidence for the Ravens so far this season has been the play of senior quarterback Kevin Thomson, a second-year starter.
"He's very valuable to this team's offense," Thomas said. "We're a pistol-spread option (offense), which means we spread out and throw the ball, but we also run the option. That means he has to throw the ball and run the ball and take some punishment. But he's a tough kid, both mentally and physically. And he's a great athlete, probably the best all-around athlete at this school. To have a kid like that leading the offense at the most valuable position is priceless."
In the Ravens' first three games, Thomson has completed 30 of 55 passes for 482 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception, which translates to a 134.7 passer rating, according to the algorithm the National Football League uses. Three games into the NFL season, only one quarterback has a higher rating — Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos, with a 134.7.
On the ground, Thomson has been equally impressive with 25 carries for 229 yards and five TDs.
Not bad for a kid who, only a few months ago, had no idea what to expect this season.
"When I first heard (about former coach Bob Morgan's resignation) I was really surprised and sad a little bit," Thomson said. "I'd been with him for all five years and kind of developed a relationship. It came out of nowhere.
"It was up in the air for a while. We didn't know who they were going to hire," Thomson said. "We were without a coach for part of the spring until we found out they were going to hire coach Thomas and bring over the guys from the Federal Way staff."
Although unsure of what to expect from the new coaching staff, Thomson was pleased about the prospect of running a wide-open, pistol-spread option.
"I felt like it would be a great offense that I could utilize and do well at, so I was excited about that," Thomson said. "I was also excited to see what kind of energy they were going to bring."
After his initial meeting with Thomas, Thomson said, he bought in to his new coach's system.
"We bonded really well," he said. "The first day we had a long talk about what he saw from last year, what his expectations for this season were and how he wanted us to play and change our mentality. Right away, from that first talk, I knew it was going to be good, and he was going to bring a lot of good, positive energy."
Thomson credits the team's early success to that positive energy, along with the confidence it has instilled in him and his teammates.
"In the past we've been content with where we've been, and I think that's been the problem," Thomson said. "I don't think we really had that motivation to strive and do better. I think that's what Coach Thomas and the other coaches have told us. They've shown a lot of confidence in us. They told us they think we have a lot of talent and the work ethic to do this. We've just got to put in the work and be willing to sacrifice the time. That's what we did all summer, and so far it's paying off."
Last Friday it paid off in the Ravens' upset of Tahoma.
"It was awesome," Thomson said. "A lot of people didn't expect us to win. They kind of looked at, 'oh, they beat Mount Rainier (41-13) and Kentridge (26-0), those are the two easiest teams in the league. The Ravens haven't really proved anything yet.' But we knew they were saying that, and we wanted to come out and make a statement. We just played a really good overall game. Defense stepped up when they needed to. Offense came up big. Special teams made a big play when we needed it."
"It was a really big win for us because we really hadn't been down yet in a game," he said. "That really showed a bit of our character."
The Ravens will need every bit of that character to make their way through the rest of the SPSL North 4A. Auburn Riverside hosted Kentlake on Thursday.
Thomas has confidence in his team and its on-field leader.
"He knows how to tap into a lot of his teammates and get them to play better," Thomas said of his quarterback. "And his work ethic — when he's not leading vocally, he's leading by example. He puts in that extra time and effort on the field that makes him the player he is right now."
For Thomson and the rest of the Ravens, the goal is simple, and it has nothing to do with numbers, rivalries or standings.
"Our No. 1 goal is just to make the playoffs," Thomson said. "From there, we can make something happen. It doesn't matter what your regular-season record is. We're not too caught up with beating Auburn or winning league, even though those are great perks. We just want to get into the playoffs."