BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP - Dustin Thomas got his swagger back in a hurry Friday night.
The quarterback completed 13-of-18 passes for 303 yards and five touchdowns as the St. Augustine Prep football team beat Bridgeton 49-6 in a Cape-Atlantic League National Conference game. St. Augustine wide receiver Gabe Voumard caught seven passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
Two of Thomas' touchdown passes came in the first quarter. He also ran for a score in the first 12 minutes.
His stellar effort came after he struggled in a season-opening 34-17 win over Roman Catholic, Pa., last Friday. Thomas completed just 3-of-9 passes for 79 yards. The performance left the quarterback wondering just how good he is.
"I just lost faith in myself," Thomas said. "I guess I came out with jitters. I don't know. This feels amazing. I played well, and the team played well."
Friday's game was the most anticipated of the early season. St. Augustine (2-0) is No. 4 in The Press' Elite 11. Bridgeton (1-1) was coming off a 14-6 upset of perennial power St. Joseph, one of the Bulldogs' biggest regular season wins in 15 years.
"The whole week of practice we watched the film of Bridgeton, and I was scared to death," Hermits coach Dennis Scuderi said. "We pushed the kids hard in practice. When they play like they did (Friday), they're hard to beat."
The Hermits dominated from the start. Bridgeton coach Dave Ellen noticed the difference in Thomas from last week.
"Watching film, he couldn't hit anything last week," Ellen said. "This week he hits everything. Their offense came together, although I think we helped them out a little bit."
That Thomas could have a crisis of confidence is almost inconceivable. Few quarterbacks in CAL history have accomplished what the Ventnor resident has. Thomas has started since he was a freshman and thrown 56 career nine touchdowns - eight shy of the southern New Jersey record of 64 held by 2007 Holy Cross graduate Tommy Reilly.
Still, Thomas needed some encouraging words from his coaches and teammates this week.
"I think he put too much pressure on himself last week," Scuderi said. "We told him just relax and play the way you're capable of playing."
St. Augustine scored on its first possession, driving 73 yards in eight plays. Thomas threw a 22-yard fade pass to Voumard to give the Hermits a 7-0 lead with 9 minutes, 2 seconds left in the first quarter.
St. Augustine then took advantage of a pair of Bridgeton turnovers to take control. Hermits linebacker Adam Schroeder recovered a fumble at the Bulldogs 15-yard line.
Thomas threw a touchdown pass to Ed Charlton on the next play.
St. Augustine defensive lineman John Bowded then recovered a fumble at the Bridgeton 21. Three plays later, Thomas (six carries, 47 yards) dove across the goal line to make the score 21-0 Hermits with 19 seconds left in the first quarter.
Bridgeton couldn't stop the Thomas to Voumard connection. Even if the Bulldogs pressured Thomas, he rolled out of the pocket and accurate throws on the run. Voumard is adept at getting open when Thomas scrambles.
"Me and Dustin are good friends in school and on the football field," Thomas said. "Our coaches told him to throw like a man and I told him the same thing. He told me he was going to come out and show what he could do."
Meanwhile, the Hermits defense shutdown the Bulldogs offense. Voumard, who plays defensive end and lineman Kris Rasso consistently pressured Bridgeton quarterback Tamar Jackson. Running back Mike Cisrow (14 carries, 105 yards) was one of Bridgeton's few bright spots.
Thomas spoke with reporters after the game and then left the field with a smile. He didn't look like someone who doubted himself.
Five touchdown passes will do that for a quarterback.
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Bridgeton 0 0 6 0-6
St. Augustine 21 14 7 7 -49
SA-Voumard 22 pass from Thomas (Gough kick)
SA-Charlton 15 pass from Thomas (Gough kick)
SA-Thomas 6 run (Gough kick)
SA-Goodroe 16 pass from Thomas (Gough kick)
SA-Laws 42 pass from Thomas (Gough kick)
B-Bunton 2 run (kick blocked)
SA-Voumard 62 pass from Thomas (Gough kick)
SA-Tobias 6 run (Gough kick)
TEAM STATS B SA
First Downs 8 11
Rushing 111 159
Passing 43 303
Turnovers 2 1
Rushing-Bunton 5-17, Cisrow 14-105, Jackson 9-(-11) BR; Laws 11-39, Piotrowicz 2-7, Thomas 6-47, Tobias 3-66 AUG.
Passing-Jackson 4-13-0-43 BR. Thomas 13-18-0-303 AUG.
Receiving-DeShields 3-22, Simpson 1-21 BR. Voumard 7-165, Laws 1-42, Goodroe 3-64, Charlton 1-15. Dombrowski 1-16 AUG.
Records-Bridgeton 1-1, St. Augustine 2-0.