Starting at the Brockton 25, the Eagles faced a 4th-and-4. The entire stadium knew the ball was going to Thomas, yet he broke a tackle and bounced outside for an 18-yard gain. On the next play he crashed into the end zone and St. John’s had the lead for good.
Thomas stands 5-11 and weighs 210 pounds. He runs a 4.47 40-yard dash and moves like a man 30 pounds lighter. He is the rare combination of speed and power that can run inside and outside. He breaks tackles as well as he evades them; once a Brockton coach screamed counter before the Prep ran one, and Thomas still hit a seam for a 41-yard gain with three or four shrugged off would-be tacklers in his wake.
“He’s a train. If we make a hole, he’ll find it and he will run — and then keep running,” said Blaeser.
Prep quarterback Michael Geaslen did a good job moving the sticks with passes to Jake Burt and came through with a pair of two-point conversion passes the Eagles needed. That’s important, because defenses can’t put 8-9 defenders in the box to deal with Thomas as cavalierly as they might otherwise.
And the Prep defense was better than it was in a Week 1 loss, with great pressure off the edge from sophomore Jack Lambert and three timely turnovers.
The Eagles still know they need Thomas, the rare and elite player everyone who loves football should watch at least once.
Maybe he’ll carry 30 times again this season, and maybe he won’t have to. By hitting the weights all summer, frequently taking ice baths to soothe his muscles, and doing yoga with the rest of his Eagles teammates to stay limber, he’ll be ready for whatever his team needs.
“I knew I’d be running a lot, be taking a lot of blows,” Thomas said. “Now, it’s time to relax and watch some college football. That’s what feels good after a win.”
When you’re as nimble and powerful as Johnny Thomas, you don’t dwell on another 250-yard performance. You simply take care of your body and try to stay grounded, because in six days it’ll be time to try to do it all over again.
Matt Williams is the assistant sports editor of The Salem News. You can contact him at MWilliams@salemnews.com, 978-338-2669 and follow him on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN.