MENLO — Braden Thomas spent the 2018 season as, essentially, the rookie quarterback on a run-first, offensively-balanced senior-led state contender.
The Pirates’ season-opening matchup against Pe Ell-Willapa Valley was his first chance to take a bigger share of that offensive load as a senior, and Thomas didn’t leave much doubt as to whether or not he’s ready.
Thomas ran in two touchdowns, threw two more and did everything but chase down the stray deer that crossed Crogstad Field between quarters as Adna debuted with a 33-6 victory over the Titans.
The Pirates racked up 381 yards of offense and blanked PWV until midway through the fourth quarter in the win, with Thomas rushing for 128 yards on 13 carries and hitting 5 of 8 passes for another 151. It was a more balanced offensive contribution than his typical line from 2018, when the former tailback was taking snaps for the first time.
“I’ve been throwing a lot more, and running a lot more, and the plays and everything are coming to me,” Thomas said, adding that a summer in the weight room was also a factor. “It’s helping a lot, and (coach K.C.) Johnson’s been helping me, one-on-one.”
Thomas broke free on a keeper midway through the first quarter, spinning out of a tackle and scoring on a 31-yard run to cap Adna’s first possession. He pulled the same trick on the next possession, hitting the end zone on a 38-yard run to spot the Pirates a 12-0 lead, and hit Zander Blankenship on a swing pass that the 6-foot-3 receiver packed 51 yards for a score.
He added a 35-yard dart to Blankenship, in stride, for a touchdown in the third quarter that put the Pirates up 26-0.
Johnson called the improved QB play a matter of familiarity.
“I think he just knows it now,” the coach said. “He’d never done it before until last year, and he told me, ‘My confidence is way up,’ and I could tell.”
Blankenship finished with three catches for 108 yards, and Cole Fay added 14 carries for 62 yards for Adna.
The defense, meanwhile, didn’t let the Titans establish position outside their own half of the field until a punt left them on the Pirate 40-yard line midway through the second quarter.
“Our defensive line didn’t get pushed around, which is huge,” Johnson said. “And (Trevor) Minkoff and Abel (Ingle) played great at linebacker, and Cole and Braden played great back there (at safety).”
Fay and Thomas helped harass the Titans into a 4 of 16 passing performance, with three of those completions coming in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Logan Walker found Kollin Jurek in the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown with just under 8 minutes left in the fourth quarter to wrap the scoring, and Peter Hamilton led PWV with 64 rushing yards on 13 carries.
“We did not play that good,” PWV coach Josh Fluke said. “We couldn’t block well, we couldn’t run well. Everyone was taking turns screwing up and they took advantage of our mishaps and they kicked our butts.”
The Titans finished with 83 yards on the ground and 69 passing yards.
Fluke added that Hamilton and Max Smith both played well defensively.
“Adna played dang good,” Fluke said. “They have a dang good team. They have a lot of speed. They just kept coming and we couldn’t handle them.”
The teams both won their respective SWW 2B Football League divisions last season, with Adna going undefeated in the regular season to take the Mountain Division crown and PWV running the table in the Coastal Division. The teams were both state playoff teams a year ago and top-5 preseason picks.
Pe Ell-Willapa Valley plays at Concrete on Saturday in a nonleague game. Adna plays a nonleague contest at Wahkiakum (0-1) on Friday.