LIMA — Lima Central Catholic’s Shaun Thomas took the handoff on the jet sweep to the right.
Thomas turned the corner and began to switch into high gear.
At that moment, the Woodlan (Ind.) safety was bearing down on him at full steam.
Just before the safety lowered the boom on Thomas, the LCC running back slowed down, shuffled his feet and faked to the inside.
The safety blew past Thomas and ended up in a heap out of bounds.
Thomas watched the defender fly by, then powered up his turbo charger and went down the sideline for an 80-yard TD.
That was one of many memorable moments for Thomas this season.
And that was just one reason he was chosen today as The Lima News’ Dream Team Offensive Player of the Year.
“I took the handoff and as I went around the corner, I had good blocks from Rossy (Moore), Michael Jay (Riepenhoff) and everybody,” Thomas said of the play against Woodlan. “The hole just opened up, but then the safety was right there. … I shuffled, then I jabbed inside. He bit on the jabs and I went back outside. I was relieved I was able to make a play.’’
Thomas helped LCC to a 9-2 season and the first round of the playoffs.
For 11 games, he had 137 carries for 1,642 rushing yards. That’s 12 yards-per-carry.
He also had 25 receptions for 488 yards.
Thomas set a single-season school record for TDs with 29 (23 rushing, six receiving).
After three seasons Thomas has 3,815 rushing yards and 53 TDs.
His career rushing yards-by-carry is 10.3.
“He’s just a tremendous young man and a leader,” LCC coach Scott Palte said. “He’s one of the most humble individuals I’ve ever coached.
He’s always giving his teammates credit before himself and never asks about his stats. He only cares about winning.
“There’s no ego at all with Shaun. He has time for everyone. Whether it be helping a freshman who doesn’t understand a play or encouraging a fellow varsity player. He’s a great young man.’’
Added Thomas, “I like to help the younger classmen. I want them to do well as a player and in the classroom. It helps keep the team together.’’
The 6-foot, 182-pound Thomas is a unique combination of speed and power.
On many of his long TD runs Thomas steamrolled the first would-be tackler, then ran away from the rest of the defense.
“Before I get the ball, I think, ‘They’re not stopping me,’ ’’ Thomas said.
That might explain why Thomas’ favorite play is “the lead.”
It’s a play where Thomas takes the handoff on what looks like a jet sweep around the end.
But a millisecond after he takes the handoff from his end spot, he slams on the brakes and turns immediately inside, running up field through the center-guard hole.
“I like hitting people,” Thomas said. “I get a lot of good blocks. But I like a little contact. I like running people over.’’
Thomas also started at cornerback.
But he was rarely used in the fourth quarter, and sometimes not much in the third, when the game went to a running clock because the T-Birds had a 30-point lead.
Against Woodlan, he had only five carries for 151 yards and two TDs.
In a 55-41 victory over Shelby, Thomas had 18 carries for 316 yards and four TDs. He also had four receptions for 113 yards and two TDs.
And in LCC’s 49-45 loss to Lima Senior, Thomas ran for 211 yards on 15 carries. He had two rushing TDs and one receiving TD.
Thomas plays football, basketball and baseball at LCC.
Entering high school, baseball was his favorite sport. He started from Day 1 on the baseball team as a shortstop.
“I was good at baseball and I loved playing it with my friends,” Thomas said.
But by the end of his freshman football season, football began to nudge ahead of baseball on his personal favorites list.
Thomas became the first freshman in LCC history to run for 1,000 yards.
“I started liking football more because I liked the contact and going on in the playoffs,” Thomas said.
Thomas attended the University of Cincinnati’s football camp last summer and ran 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
At that point, the Bearcats became extremely interested in Thomas.
While he hasn’t received any official offers yet, the schools who have been in contact with him are the following: Cincinnati, Miami (Ohio), Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland and Toledo.
There’s basketball now for Thomas, then baseball.
But his sights are set on a long football playoff run next season.
“Our senior year we’re looking to go all the way,” Thomas said. “My goal is to keep up the energy, and get stronger and faster. We want to work as a team and finish games strong.’’