Dora is not most high school football teams — not with Kai Thomas waiting in the wings.
Thomas stepped into a starting role in the backfield in 2012. The results were immediate and prolific. Thomas didn’t only step in for former Dora running back Cody Staten, he surpassed him.
Thomas, a 5-foot-9, 155-pound senior, rushed for 2,058 yards along with 32 touchdowns for a Dora team that reached the state semifinals for the first time since 1986. He added a pair of receiving touchdowns along with a kickoff return for a score.
For his efforts, Thomas is the 2012 Eagle Elite Player of the Year.
Thomas set the tone this season with a 229-yard, three-touchdown performance against Cordova in the season opener. Against the Blue Devils, Thomas had touchdown runs of 59, 92 and 37 yards. That was just the beginning. Thomas scored at least one touchdown in all 14 games this season and rushed for at least two touchdowns in 11 games.
At first, Dora head coach Johnny Wright didn’t know what to expect from the unassuming Thomas.
“The year before I got here, they didn’t use him much,” Wright said of Thomas. “I knew he could run. With us moving to the Wing-T, I felt his quickness would really fit in there. I wasn’t sure until he put his pads on. Once he did, I knew it was the perfect offense for him.”
Thomas scored seven touchdowns in the first two games alone and had 11 after a three-touchdown game against West Blocton in Week 4.
In Dora’s lone regular-season loss to 5A powerhouse Muscle Shoals, Thomas scored the Bulldogs’ only touchdown on a reception from quarterback Caleb May.
Muscle Shoals was the only defense to hold Thomas under 100 yards. Wright also kept the running back under the century mark in Week 9 against Carbon Hill. In that game, Thomas rushed just three times for 78 yards, scoring each time he touched the ball.
Thomas was particularly strong in the postseason, totaling 565 yards and seven touchdowns in four games. He scored two touchdowns in each of the Bulldogs’ first three playoff games.
Thomas shined on both sides of the ball in Dora’s third-round, road victory over Charles Henderson, catching a 33-yard touchdown pass, rushing for a 64-yard score and picking off a pair of passes on defense.
“He had so many touchdown runs this year. Whenever he broke the line of scrimmage, he had a chance to score. The Charles Henderson game stands out. He broke a couple of big plays for us. That was a huge game for the program,” Wright said. “He had a big game in a big-time situation.”
Thomas finished the season averaging 10.8 yards per carry. He was one of three Dora players who rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season along with May and DeMarcus Kirk.
“Kai is a quality running back. He’s also a great defensive back and good at returning punts. People quit kicking to him pretty early on. He’s a very quiet kid. He’s the kind of kid you want as a team captain. The other guys looked up to him and the way he practiced so hard. He was a joy to coach,” Wright added.
Eagle Elite List
Quarterbacks: Oakman’s Jase Trotter, Winston County’s Seth Blanton, Curry’s Bradley Loggins
Athletes: Dora’s Caleb May and Corner’s Blake Byrd
Running Backs: Parrish’s Jermichael Harris, Oakman’s Chris Austin, Dora’s DeMarcus Kirk
Wide Recievers: Corner’s Kerry Smith, Oakman’s Quinton Harris, and Curry’s Lane Oliver
Offensive Line: Walker’s Brett Buchanan, Dora’s Cameron Ghotar, Dora’s Jarrett Eddy and Oakman’s Aaron Key
Place Kicker: Walker’s Joseph Pedraza
Linebackers: Walker’s Austin Mansell, Oakman’s Don Tyler Jackson, Lynn’s Bryan Clark, Walker’s Blake Moore and Dora’s Cade Stone.
Defensive Line: Dora’s Brantley Whitlow, Dora’s Joel Parrish, Parrish’s Brodrick Sanders and Oakman’s Hunter Williams.
Defensive Backs: Walker’s Quadrekas Key, Dora’s Deionte Smith, Oakman’s Purvis Coger and Meek’s Garrett Raines
Athlete: Cordova’s Andrew Minor and Dora’s DeAngelo Pendleton
Punter: Corner’s Troy Elliott
Addison: Franky Melson and Jesse Seals
Carbon Hill: Jacob Mitchell and Ryan Simerly
Cordova: Jamaal Cooper
Corner: Jake Averhart
Dora: Mark Davenport, Devonta Gosha, Zac Roberts, Robert Johnson and Stonie Phillips
Lynn: Dakota Bell and Brody Meeks
Meek: Cameron Hallmark and Jentson Hiller
Oakman: Reilly Williams, Mark Austin
Parrish: Chris Evans and Mason Seacrest
Sumiton Christian: Nathan Godwin, Austin Clark, Trey Collins and Riley Blackmon
Walker: Tyler Phillips
Winston County: Dylan Earnest and Tyler Linzer