Jaylen Thomas made his debut as Vista Ridge’s primary quarterback in Friday’s game against Discovery Canyon on the Wolves’ home field.
Thomas led his team back to the locker room in a seven-point hole at the half, but 21 unanswered points - including a rushing and passing score from Thomas - helped Vista Ridge (3-2) to a 35-21 victory over the Thunder (2-3).
“He stepped up,” coach Jerimi Calip said. “Everything that we asked him to do, he came in and he did it.”
Thomas said the biggest adjustment from his previous do-it-all offensive role was reading receivers and defenses from the new viewpoint.
He appeared to do fine in that department, serving up a well-placed jump ball for 6-foot-4 receiver Micah Hilts in the first half for a score before hitting Jason Prisbrey down the seam for the go-ahead touchdown in the final seconds of the third quarter.
Thomas capped the scoring with a long scramble down the home sideline with just under five minutes to play. That was enough to put the Thunder and their triple-option offense in a hole that was ultimately too deep.
“We don’t have the ability to sling the ball around and come back in a hurry,” Discovery Canyon coach Shawn Mitchell said.
The Thunder took a lead into the half behind a few big plays.
After Vista Ridge junior Jeffrey Crittendon rushed for the opening score, Caleb Grotelueschen tied it with a short run of his own.
Thomas then hit Hilts in the front corner of the end zone before the Thunder’s Kevin Pasion returned the ensuing kickoff for six.
A Vista Ridge fumble, while Thomas was sidelined with a bloody nose, helped set up the Thunder’s final score, a short run from quarterback Zach Anderson with less than two minutes left in the opening half.
From that point forward, the Wolves defense pitched a shutout.
The Discovery Canyon coach wasn’t sure if his line was outmanned or uncomfortable with the Wolves’ pressure.
“They were playing pretty aggressive defense, and we were having a hard time,” Mitchell said.
Daniel Eggleton led the Discovery Canyon offense with 59 rushing yards, including a 46-yard sprint that set up the Thunder's first score. Anderson was limited to 31 passing yards, completing two of his three attempts, but was forced backwards for -3 yards on eight rushes.
The Discovery Canyon defense had its hands full with Thomas and Crittendon, who made his season debut. Crittendon rushed for 218 yards and two scores on 29 carries and added a 10-yard reception.
“Jeff just offers so much because of his speed,” Calip said. “When you got a guy that can stretch the field, that’s invaluable.”
Thomas carried 19 times for 183 yards and a score in addition to his two passing scores. He completed 5 of 11 passes for 51 yards.
The senior is expected to be the Vista Ridge quarterback moving forward.
“He actually opens up the playbook because of what he brings to the table as a runner,” the Vista Ridge coach said. “Jaylen’s an athlete, and as you can see, he can throw the ball. If he plays like that, we’ll be tough to beat.”