Louisiana Farm Bureau Insurance/LSWA Mr. Football award.
LSWA/FARM BUREAU INSURANCE MR. FOOTBALL
By JIM DERRY
The prep careers of many of the greatest football players in Louisiana history can be summed up in pages of statistical records. Four years worth of highlight reels from the Keytaon Thompson Show can be encapsulated in one play.
It’s the Class 5A state championship game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Landry-Walker 14, West Monroe 7. Second and goal at the West Monroe 6 with six seconds to play in the first half.
Thompson takes the snap from the pistol formation, looks to his right and his first option, playmaker Tevin Bush is covered. By the time the Landry-Walker senior quarterback looks the other way, two Rebels defenders are converging on him and forcefully lift him from the turf.
But Thompson unloads the ball with all the strength he can muster in his right arm and hits Devonta Jason for one of the most improbable, amazing touchdown passes ever seen in the annals of Louisiana High School football.
It was the moment the Charging Buccaneers realized their dreams were coming true. And it was the moment Keytaon Thompson joined the likes of Leonard Fournette, Landon Collins and others as the state’s elite players of his generation.
With few words to explain the greatness just witnessed, Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio succinctly stated, "I'll sum it up in three letters for you, buddy: S-E-C."
The Louisiana Sports Writers Association needed a few more characters to describe Thompson: Louisiana Farm Bureau Insurance/LSWA Mr. Football award.
“This season has meant a lot to me. This is the first class to go through as Landry-Walker after we merged, and I have been able to start since my freshman year,” Thompson said. “Going full circle to finally finish the season the way we wanted and get the W, it meant so much. To get everyone to buy in, to stick together, those two losses at the beginning of the season (to eventual 4A champ Karr and 5A No. 1 John Curtis) really helped us focus. … “The way we lost against Mandeville last year in the playoffs (31-14 in the 2015 Class 5A quarterfinals) really helped, too. We thought we would win, and leaving the field that night, all I could think was we were running out of time. Going in the offseason, all that was in my head was it was this year or never.”
And wow, did he make “this year” happen.
In 15 regular-season and playoff games, Thompson completed 60 percent of his 331 passes for 3,824 yards and 45 touchdowns. He also rushed for another 1,419 yards and 25 scores, and led the Charging Buccaneers to 50 points or more in all five playoff games and 40 or more in all 13 victories.
For the mathematically challenged, that’s an absurd 5,243 yards of total offense and 70 touchdowns.
“I had a lot of help, and they were all big for me,” Thompson said. “Teams would try to take away Tevin (Bush, a West Virginia commit) and Devonta, and then they’ll overlook the talent of the other guys we have. Then they go out and get all those yards – the run after the catch – and our opponents couldn’t key on one person.
“When they did try to key on just one, it would get ugly pretty fast.”
That was evident in the Class 5A semifinals on a cold, damp December night at Destrehan, a team that had previously lost just three games in four seasons.
The teams went back and forth throughout the first 20 minutes of the game, as the Wildcats seemed to key on Bush and Jason. So Thompson let his feet do the talking.
Showing off that quick-strike capabilities Landry-Walker was able to come up with so often to steamroll their opponents, Thompson’s 22-yard run and ensuing two-point pass to Jason with 3:47 to go in the first half turned a 14-12 deficit to a 20-14 lead.
But instead of resting on that lead heading into intermission, Thompson scored twice more on runs of 41 and 9 yards in less than two minutes to all but punch the Charging Buccaneers’ ticket to the Superdome.
“You try to stop certain things, falling back in four-deep coverage, and then they’d run the ball,” Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux said that night. “Things kind of got out of hand. … Trying to stop them, we couldn’t do it with the guys we had tonight. They’re just tremendous. The speed is just crazy, and (Thompson) just threw the ball so well. If you try to stop the run, you can’t stop both the run and the pass the way he throws the football.”
Possibly even more impressive than the 70 offensive touchdowns is the fact he turned the ball over just five times – none coming in the playoffs.
And now, as Thompson moves on to Mississippi State, where he is enrolling in January after graduating early from high school, he’ll do so with three championship rings – two in basketball in 2014 and 2015. One of those beauties came from him hitting the title-winning shot at the buzzer as a sophomore against Salmen in the Class 4A championship two years ago.
However, he says nothing compares to exiting the Dome a winner in his senior season in the sport he loves most.
“It was a day to remember, for sure,” Thompson said. “… Winning basketball was great, and I would wear my rings around the football team and the coaches, and they were like, ‘Man, you got to get us one of those.’ And I told them, ‘I got y’all.’ We knew if we made it all the way we weren’t losing.”
Farm Bureau Insurance/LSWA Mr. Football
2016: Keytaon Thompson, Landry-Walker
2015: Lindsey Scott, Zachary
2014: Deshawn Capers-Smith, Warren Easton
2013: Leonard Fournette, St. Augustine
2012: John Diarse, Neville
2011: Landon Collins, Dutchtown
2010: Anthony Johnson, O. Perry Walker
2009: Gavin Webster, Lutcher
2008: Blake Matherne, Belle Chasse
2007: Randall Mackey, Bastrop
2006: Joe McKnight, John Curtis
2005: Charles Scott, Jonesboro-Hodge
2004: Ryan Perrilloux, East St. John
2003: Chris Markey, Jesuit
2002: Robert Lane, Neville
2001: Jason Miller, Iota
2000: Byron Robertson, St. Thomas Aquinas
1999: Brock Berlin, Evangel
1998: Bradie James, West Monroe
1997: Adam McConathy, West Monroe
1996: Travis Minor, Baton Rouge-Catholic
1995: Cecil Collins, Leesville