KENT: Before parting ways and beginning their respective college careers, Kent Roosevelt standouts Tra'Von Chapman and Trei Thomas received one final opportunity to be on the same team when they were named to the Associated Press Division II First-Team All-Ohio squad last week.
Chapman, a senior quarterback who has committed to the University of Pittsburgh, and Thomas, a senior receiver who is still weighing his college options, were both first-team selections as they headed up a group of five Rough Riders who were recognized with All-Ohio honors.
"I've coached for 33 years and they are two of the finest athletes I have ever coached," Kent Roosevelt coach John Nemec said.
Led by Chapman and Thomas, the Rough Riders went 10-2 this season, losing in the second round of the playoffs to Aurora. It was the second straight 10-2 season for the program and marked the first time in the Rough Riders have won playoff games in consecutive years.
Chapman was a dual threat for Roosevelt, passing for more than 2,700 yards and rushing for 500 more on his way to he tallying 36 total touchdowns. Making his accomplishments even more noteworthy, he transferred to the district in the middle of his sophomore year and was able to become a team leader before playing a single down as a Rough Rider, according to his coach.
"Tra'Von came in at the middle of his sophomore year from Columbus and really sold himself to the other kids in the weight room. He showed himself as an extremely hard worker and leader and it was really a natural sequence of events," Nemec added. "When the other players saw how serious he was, he really turned into a team leader right there in the weight room."
To accelerate the adjustment process, Chapman went back and watched game film of all of the team's games from the previous season and studied outgoing quarterback Evan Shimensky, who is now a member of the Mid-American Conference East Division champion Kent State Golden Flashes. By the time he hit the field as a junior, Chapman had a good grasp of Nemec's offense as well as a solid working relationship with his top target, Thomas.
"They worked very hard in offseason and knew each other well, the way a quarterback and his favorite receiver know each other well, almost like brothers out there," Nemec continued.
Because of the pair's strong chemistry on the field, they were able to communicate and make adjustments to plays at the line of scrimmage using hand signals, a rarity at the high school level. Chapman had the ability to audible on any snap and Nemec recalled no more than a half-dozen instances where Chapman and Thomas audibled and he had to correct them.
Thomas' success continues the legacy his father Tyrone began as a player for Nemec in the 1980s. He is undecided on a college, but because of academic issues he will either enroll in a four-year college and need to get his grades up to become eligible after one year, or enroll at a junior college and play. Nemec described the 5-foot-10, 175-pound receiver as "an exceptional athlete with great body control and hands, amazing hand-eye coordination" and a player who moves well in space.
"He broke all of our school records this year, single-season and career, and we've had some great receivers here," Nemec said.
Thomas currently has offers from Kent State and Akron.
In addition to Chapman and Thomas, junior linebacker Matt Sommers, junior offensive lineman Stan Zalewski and senior defensive end Austin Mastroine received special mention all-state honors. With a quintet of players recognized, Nemec believes their success establishes a mark for the younger players in the program to target.
"I think it motivates the young kids, they want to be like them," he said. "You don't last 33 years as a coach and have the number of wins we've had without some great kids."