If you’re ever in need of a promoter or hype man for an event, consider Ballard High coach Joey Thomas. To steal a line from former Kansas basketball assistant coach Barry Hinson, Thomas could sell a pinto hatchback to somebody there to buy a BMW.
It’s just that Thomas has a way with describing his players and team that is enthralling.
Consider: When talking about reasons for optimism with his team, Thomas said simply,
“We have the four horsemen,” a reference to the famed Notre Dame backfield.
The horsemen, in Ballard’s terms, are quarterback Johnny Verduin, receiver Nate Rauda and running backs Dominic King and Dominique Smith. When talking about Rauda, Thomas said, “He’s a playmaker. There’s no other way to put it. And I’m saying it right now: He’s the best receiver in the state. I’m staking my claim. He’s the best receiver in the state, and nobody knows about him because he broke his leg last year. He’s the best thing nobody knows about.”
When talking about King, a returning starter, Thomas said, “He’s a force to be reckoned with. He’s a big dude.”
Or, when talking about Smith, Thomas added, “I don’t want to sound like I’m just blowing hot air on my guys, but when we say this kid’s name, people know who he is. He’s the best playmaker in the state, bottom line. I’d like to see someone who can match the things he can do.”
Thomas also points to tangible evidence for his optimism in his guys.
As a junior last year, King (5-11, 225) was named to the all-league first team after rushing for more than 900 yards. Smith, a transfer from Franklin, was named all-league on both sides of the ball and is a prolific return specialist.
Throw in an improved Verduin – “His strength is his intelligence, and he always knows where the right read is,” Thomas said – and a healthy Rauda and Ballard could improve on last year’s 3-6 finish (Ballard actually won four games but later forfeited a win against Sammamish after self-reporting the use of an illegible player).
“We have the potential to have a very big year,” Thomas said. “But all that’s going to come down to leadership and you have to get lucky a little bit with staying healthy. If we continue doing what we’re doing, we expect big things.”
Players to watch:
RB Dominic King, 5-11, 225
WR Nate Rauda, 6-2, 185
QB Johnny Verduin, 6-5, 200
RB/CB Dominique Smith, 5-9, 170
OT/DE Asher Chasen, 6-7, 260.
Game to watch:
Oct. 19 vs. Roosevelt. The Beavers will enter this one after games with Issaquah and Skyline. It could be for a spot in the playoffs.
Will Dominic King break the 1,000-yard barrier this season?