BRIDGETON - Stephan Thomas is football's version of a renaissance man. The Egg Harbor Township High School senior carried the Eagles to a 26-16 win against Bridgeton in a Cape-Atlantic League game Thursday.
"I take a lot of pride in that," Thomas said of his versatility. "I don't want to just be one-dimensional. I want to do a lot of things. The more things you do, the more playing time you get, so I try to do whatever I can."
Thomas ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. He also caught two passes for 34 yards and a touchdown.
And he wasn't done.
Thomas also had kickoff returns of 62 and 70 yards in the first half and added an interception that he returned 23 yards.
"Bottom line - Stephan is the man," Egg Harbor Township coach Tony DeRosa said. "He's an exciting football player. He's durable. He wants the ball in his hands, but what also makes Stephan great is that he is a great leader as well."
Thomas' returns gave the Eagles the edge in field position in the first half, which was key on a night when pre-game thunderstorms drenched the field.
He was rewarded with a 1-yard touchdown run with less than four minutes left in the first half that gave his team a 13-9 lead.
Thomas then capped off a one-minute and 28 second, 70-yard drive to end the first half with a 25-yard touchdown catch. Eagles quarterback Jon Kopistecki threw a perfect pass that gave EHT a 19-9 halftime lead.
Bridgeton, a Group II school, went blow for blow with the Eagles, who are coming off an 11-1 season in which they made it all the way to the South Jersey Group IV final.
"We're not expected to bang with the big boys, but football is football," Bridgeton coach Dave Ellen said. "We told our kids that we wanted to make sure (Egg Harbor Township) knew they were in a football game. Any time you have a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter, the kids are doing a good job out there. They did just a fantastic job."
Kevin Bunton scored an 11-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter to bring Bridgeton within three points at 19-16.
Not bad for a team that was playing without its starting quarterback.
Tamar Jackson, who led the Bulldogs to an impressive 36-0 win against Pleasantville last week, missed the game after spraining his ankle during the school day in a non-football related injury.
The score stayed 19-16 until late in the fourth quarter when, you guessed it, Thomas took a direct snap on third-and-short and broke through the Bridgeton line for a 46-yard touchdown to put the game away.
Egg Harbor Township's defense came up big in the fourth quarter, forcing Bridgeton into two three-and-outs and negative-12 yards of total offense.
Bunton ran for 73 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Jae DeShields had a solid game with two catches for 19 yards, a 34-yard field goal and a 59-yard punt return. Bridgeton senior Tyler Haydak, who stepped in on short notice to replace Jackson, completed 5-of-9 passes for 62 yards.
Bridgeton's schedule doesn't get any easier as it plays at Holy Spirit on Sept. 24. Spirit is the No. 1 team in The Press Elite 11.
The win was big for EHT, which was coming off a tough 17-13 season-opening loss to Absegami. The Eagles host Millville on Sept. 24.
"The Absegami game really hurt us, but we flipped the page," Thomas said. "We were 1-0 this week and hopefully we can go 1-0 against Millville next week."
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