There are good reasons for Kaden Thomas’ worry-free mentally whenever he steps back to pass.
The Blooming Prairie quarterback is protected by an offensive line that’s been close to impenetrable. Thomas’ confidence also oozes in knowing that he’s got receivers who are tough to guard and that two of them — Gabe Hagen and Karson Vigeland — are open even when they’re not. Such is life when you’re in the 6-feet-4 range and can run and jump, which describes them both.
“It’s not a 50-50 ball when you throw it to those guys,” Thomas said, referencing their reach and range. “And with Gabe, he’s a big guy at 6-4, 250 pounds. But he’s also super quick. Teams are always concerned about where Gabe is. But when they double team him, I have another guy (Vigeland) who is also really good and fast and about as tall as Gabe. It’s nice with those two.”
It’s nice all the way around for Thomas, who inherited the starting quarterback job at Blooming Prairie the final game of the regular season last year due to a teammate’s injury. Thomas proceeded to do something with his ascension, throwing for 1,117 yards and 17 touchdowns (just two interceptions), while completing 75 percent of his passes. Those gaudy numbers helped guide the Blossoms all the way to the Class A state tournament semifinals.
And now, here he is back for his senior year. The quarterback job is his all over again, and save for a tough preseason battle for the starting job with QB-in-waiting sophomore Drew Kittleson, Thomas has gone about his business with more comfort than ever.
Internal pressure would have seemed inevitable for Thomas, not only with him trying to recapture his near flawless form from last year, but also in trying to get the Blossoms to fulfill their promise.
Currently ranked third in Class A, Blooming Prairie entered this season with almost its entire starting lineup in tact and with a state championship its unquestioned goal.
Yet none of it seems to faze Thomas, who’s No. 1 sport isn’t football but basketball, where he is one of southeastern Minnesota's top guards.
Don’t take Thomas’ football comfortability the wrong way. It’s not the result of him thinking he’s so great or being disinterested. Instead, it stems from him knowing that everyone around him wearing Blooming Prairie jerseys is talented and committed.
“It helps a lot when you trust everyone on your team and you know their capabilities,” Thomas said. “Plus, none of us plays the game for ourselves. We all do our jobs for each other.”
Thomas is certainly holding up his end of things. He’s actually taken a step up from his ridiculously strong totals of a year ago.
The 6-feet-2, 180-pound senior has completed 21 of 26 passes, for an almost-unheard-of completion percentage of 81. He’s thrown for 394 yards, with six touchdowns and zero interceptions. He’s been sacked just twice, an indication of how much help he’s getting up front.
But Hagen, the team’s biggest star (committed to play next year at the University of Minnesota, Mankato), says don’t be fooled. Thomas’ success reflects his own talents, not simply everybody else’s.
Hagen saw this coming long ago from Thomas, his Blooming Prairie neighbor.
“I was confident in Kaden last year,” Hagen said. “We’ve been playing football together since the fifth grade. It’s his playmaking skills that make him so good. He knows when to run and he can pass. He’s got a really good arm. But his best thing is his smarts. He knows all the plays and all the reads. That’s a big part of being a quarterback.”
Blooming Prairie coach Chad Gimbel says he’s witnessing Thomas at his very best. As good as he was last year in taking over late in the season, he’s taken another step.
“I think Kaden is more focused on football than before, knowing that he’s going to be the guy,” said Gimbel, whose team has outscored its first two foes by a combined 95-0. “And he’s got that calmness about him, never getting too excited.”