BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The second finalist for Sportsline Player of the Year and the Warrick Dunn Award is Catholic High quarterback Jackson Thomas, whose Bears were just four points shy of a state championship and perfect season this year.
Catholic High started the season exploding for 62 points on Parkview Baptist and closed the regular season averaging an unheard of 55 points per game the last seven weeks. At the controls was senior quarterback Jackson Thomas but it wasn’t always that way.
“I remember the day that he showed up to freshman football workouts in the summertime and he had this pink t-shirt on and the ‘Bieber’ hair floppin’ and all that and I’m like, ‘Oh man, look at this guy,’" said head coach Gabe Fertita. "There were two or three quarterbacks in front of him - just in his grade. Really, a guy who took his first big-time starts as a quarterback as a senior going against - particularly in our pre-district schedule - some of the toughest competition in Louisiana and he dominated.”
In back-to-back weeks - wins over state champions St. Thomas More and Edna Karr, along with the 99 points the Bears piled up, earned the respect of playoff opponents like John Curtis and Rummel.
“He was a guy who was working really hard, even though nobody was really watching him from the outside,” Fertita added.
“People always say like, ‘Oh, you’re going to start when you’re a senior,’ but it takes - you can’t just wait for that - you’ve got to work your way up and make your own spot,” said Thomas.
“It’s a really daunting task for our offensive guys to go through that whole plan with as many shifts and motions and formations and personnel groupings,” Fertita explained.
“Most of it was just ‘don’t try to make too much stuff happen.’ Play at more of a conservative level, but still do what you’ve got to do when you’ve got to do it,” Thomas added.
“With Jackson, he already knew it. Here’s this guy who truthfully needs to know pretty much what all the 10 other guys are doing out there - and he knows it - and you don’t know?” Fertita questioned.
Oh, they knew it. And it was painfully obvious on senior night, as Thomas, who would finish the season with 2,648 yards of total offense and 31 total touchdowns, polished off Dutchtown by putting up 70 points on the scoreboard.
“The o-line was playing great, the receivers were playing great, the running backs doing great. Everything was just clicking for us,” Thomas explained.
“You don’t throw 73 percent completions on over 250-something passes in a 13-game season by only playing good in one or two games,” Fertita added.