PARKERSBURG — Owen Thomas is prepared to lead. It’s a trait that comes naturally within his family.
Aplington-Parkersburg’s junior is now competing as a quarterback on Ed Thomas Field — the Sacred Acre named after and once meticulously groomed by his grandfather who developed so many successful men of character throughout a Hall of Fame coaching career.
Owen’s first start as the Falcons’ signal caller followed in the footsteps of his dad, Aaron, and uncle, Todd, who previously found success in Aplington-Parkersburg red. The junior passed for 273 yards and three touchdowns last Friday during a storybook 22-18 come-from-behind, season-opening victory over New Hampton.
It all began with a detailed scouting report.
“Before we had our first practice of New Hampton prep he came to Todd Thomas, our offensive coordinator, and had a two-page report written up on the things that he thinks that we can do to their defense,” Aplington-Parkersburg coach Alex Pollock revealed. “He loves the game. He wants us to be successful, and I feel at this point he’s going to do everything he can to help us out to win.”
Pollock can pinpoint Friday’s victory to a pivotal fourth down conversion. The Falcons needed to gain 22 yards from their own 22-yard line, trailing 18-7 with 4:17 remaining.
Thomas completed a first down pass and his team never looked back. Receiver Terrence Colar finished the drive with a 12-yard touchdown reception before breaking the go-ahead score on a 61-yard play with 39 seconds remaining.
“We had not moved the ball at all in the second half,” Pollock said. “When we got that first down, it was kind of like the floodgates opened and kids started believing.
“We didn’t quit when things didn’t look very good. Kids persevered through some poor play against a real physical team and we just kept attacking. We needed one good thing to happen, and once it did we built off some momentum for the last four-plus minutes of the game.”
Aplington-Parkersburg returns to its home field at 7 p.m. Friday to host talented neighbor Dike-New Hartford. Class 1A’s No. 2-ranked Wolverines recovered from last season’s state championship game loss with a convincing 48-0 win over Denver in their 2019 opener.
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Returning playmakers Cade Bennett (111 rushing yards, two touchdowns against Denver) and Drew Sonnenberg (180 passing yards, four touchdowns) are part of a dynamic offense that appears to have found another gear.
“They really haven’t sat on the successes they’ve had in the past,” D-NH coach Don Betts said. “They worked very, very hard in the offseason to get better and stronger and faster and refine their techniques.”
Added Pollock, “They’re extremely talented. Probably some of the best skill kids in the state. We’re definitely going to have our hands full.”
Defensively, D-NH relied on third-year starters Mason Graves and Noah Epley at linebacker to set the tone in Friday’s shutout. In the secondary, Parker Kiewiet made the game’s key play when he snatched a first-quarter end zone interception.
That D-NH defensive backfield will be tested by an Aplington-Parkersburg receiving corps that caught Betts’ attention. In addition to Colar’s school-record three receiving scores, fellow senior Jack Haren hauled in seven passes for 78 yards in the Falcons’ opener.
“Their receivers had a lot of speed and they made some nice catches,” Betts said. “Their quarterback can get the ball out there and I was impressed with their receivers’ ability to make plays after they got their hands on the ball.”
While each team has talented skill guys, both coaches believe this game will once again be decided in the trenches.
“We know that for the last how many years the better team up front has won,” Pollock said.
Betts agreed, “At the end of day it’s going to be the team that can run the football and control the line of scrimmage that is going to win the game. I have coached against A-P teams for way too many years to think otherwise.”