This season the junior signal caller has step in and step up for the Trojans offense and played a pivotal role in the team's undefeated season.
On Friday when East Side played the Kossuth Aggies (3-8) in the first round of the 3A State Playoffs, it was Thomas who shined the brightest with 214 rushing yards on 14 carries with three touchdowns as the Trojans dismantled the Aggies 44-22 to advance to the second round and remain perfect on the year at 12-0.
"Jalen is a play maker with speed and when he gets on the edge he's hard to track down in the open field. He is a good kid and a team player and we are proud of his effort," said East Side Head Coach Roger Burton.
Along with Thomas, Quadre Butler also ran hard for the Trojans going for 204 yards on 18 carries with one touchdown. As a team the Trojans tallied 508 rushing yards on the night.
In the second round East Side will host the Water Valley Blue Devils at 7 p.m. Friday. Water Valley defeated North Panola 44-22 in the first round Friday.
These two teams are very familiar with each other as they faced off last season in the third round of the 3A State Playoffs in Water Valley. In that contest the Trojans defeated the Blue Devils 32-27.
"They are a lot similar to us. They are a big physical team. Every play in this game is going to count. In this game you can't take any plays off because every play is going to be magnified," said Burton.
The Trojans defense came out strong with a fourth down stop on Kossuth to get the ball back to the offense.
The Trojans offense struggled on their opening drive with penalties as they were called for four false starts and a holding penalty. Despite the flags, the Trojans continued to grind and converted two fourth down plays to keep the drive alive. With 5:09 remaining in the in the first quarter, Butler broke free on a 44-yard touchdown run. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, but East Side led 6-0.
Later in the quarter the Aggies had the ball, but things went horribly wrong when Denzel Miller fumbled and East Side's Edgar Eatmon recovered the ball and returned it 53 yards for the score with 1:30 remaining in the first quarter. Simeon Kimble added the 2-point conversion for a 14-0 East Side lead.
On Kossuth's next possession the offense found themselves with their backs against the wall with a third down and 18, but a draw play to Miller went for 60 yards down to the Trojans 20-yard line to end the first quarter.
On the first play of the second quarter the Aggies caught the Trojans being too aggressive in run support and off play action, quarterback Elijah Potts connected with Evan Cooper for a 20-yard touchdown with 11:50 left in the second quarter. East Side's Kamien Lucas blocked the extra point attempt for a 14-6 score.
Following an East Side punt the Aggies went to work moving ball. The Aggies caught the Trojan defense napping again as a reverse halfback pass from Miller to Cooper went for a 30-yard touchdown pass with 2:55 left in the second quarter. Blake Holley added the 2-point conversion for a 14-14 game.
That would be as close as the Aggies would get in this ball game as Thomas scored with 1:12 remaining in the second quarter on a 52-yard touchdown run. Paddarius Bronner added the 2-point conversion for a 22-14 lead. With 5:12 on the clock in the third quarter, Thomas scored on a 10-yard touchdown run. The conversion failed, but East Side led 28-14. Johnny Russell scored from 12 yards outs with 2:12 left in the third. Dy'monquae Pates added the 2-point conversion for a 36-14 East Side lead. East Side added one more score in the fourth quarter with 9:57 left in the game when Thomas scored from 55-yards out. Pates added the 2-point conversion for a 44-14 lead.
Miller scored a touchdown late on the East Side back-up defense and Stegan Smith added the 2-point conversion for a 44-22 game.
The Trojans defense was led by Vernell Baldridge with 16 tackles, Michael Hurns had 13 tackles, Burns had eight tackles with a fumble recovery, Lucas had three tackles, a sack and a blocked extra point and Eatmon had a fumble return for a score.