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Thomas Contributes on Offense and Defense in Shrine Game

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After a misunderstanding with Coach Ed Burke earlier this week, it appeared the chances of Jason Thomas having an impact in Saturday’s 47th Annual Shrine All-Star Football Classic were diminished.

Burke said he believed Thomas, a Parade All-American quarterback from Compton Dominguez High, had left training camp after curfew and demoted him behind starter Carson Palmer of Santa Margarita.

However, once the game got underway, Thomas not only took nearly half the snaps at quarterback against a Texas all-star team, he was the most exciting player on the field as California went to 4-0 against Texas with a 10-5 victory at Cerritos College in front of 7,500.

Thomas did his best Deion Sanders impression, playing much of the game at safety, as well.

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Defense was something that Thomas had looked forward to playing the week leading up to the game.

“When camp began, I started out at free safety,” Thomas said. “But I needed to get more reps at quarterback.

“But I wanted to play defense. This is the all-stars, and you do whatever it takes to win.”

Thomas entered the game as a defender, but he opened eyes with his exciting play at quarterback.

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Thomas, who like Palmer will be attending USC this fall, spent much of the time scrambling and improvising with no one open in what turned out to be a defensive battle.

His numbers weren’t impressive, one for five, negative-one yard passing, but his playmaking was.

On his fifth play under center, Thomas dropped back but quickly headed upfield and scrambled for 15 yards on third down and nine.

It was just one of many scrambles for Thomas, who said not all plays were designed for him to run.

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“Some plays were designed runs, but some, like the first run, were me just being an athlete,” he said.

Not all his runs, however, turned out to be as successful.

On the final play of the third quarter, Thomas rolled right, then had his helmet knocked off by Texas linebacker Terrence Robinson.

“It wasn’t nothing,” Thomas said. “I’m a big boy. I even popped up before [Robinson].

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“It was a good pop. But it wasn’t anything that had me shook up.”

One person who has Texas shook up was UCLA-bound running back DeShaun Foster (Tustin).

With 5:12 remaining in the third quarter and trailing, 5-0, Burke, who coaches at Torrey Pines, decided to go for it facing fourth and two at the 10.

Foster broke one tackle at the line and carried another defender into the end zone for the game’s only touchdown.

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Earlier in the game, California kicker Hayden Epstein (Torrey Pines) had missed two field goals of 35 and 42 yards.

Epstein was on the field on the fourth down, but Burke called time out and decided to go for it.

“I thought it was a great call,” Epstein said. “On fourth and a short two, you go for it.

“This is an all-star game and we came here to win.”

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