PALO CEDRO – Foothill High’s Jayden Gordon entered the final week of the regular season as arguably the most electrifying quarterback in the Northern Section. But it was Chico’s Ty Thomas who stole the show.
Thomas accounted for four first-half touchdowns to lift the visiting Panthers past the host Cougars 42-7 Friday night at Bill Johnson Community Stadium in the Redding Rancheria Game of the Week.
Chico secured a top-three seed in the NSCIF Division II playoffs and could potentially get the No. 1 seed after Pleasant Valley beat Paradise 38-6 Friday night. The Northern Section seeding meeting is Saturday morning. Foothill is expected to get the No. 4 seed and host No. 5 Shasta.
“We’re really proud of Ty; he’s at the top of his game,” Chico head coach Jason Alvistur said. “He’s running, he’s throwing, he’s being a leader. He’s coming into his own and blossoming and we’re proud of him.”
Thomas completed 14 of 22 passes for 209 yards and ran for another 76 yards on six carries. He went untouched on the opening drive of the game for a 37-yard touchdown to get the Panthers offense in a groove early on.
Foothill answered with a 94-yard scoring drive, capped by Gordon hitting Tyler Carey in stride on a slant that he took 58 yards for a touchdown.
Thomas finished off a 14-play possession by punching it in from 1-yard out for a 14-7 lead and it would be enough with the way the Panthers shut down Gordon. The section’s leading rushing quarterback came in with 1,224 yards and 20 touchdowns and managed 32 yards on 15 carries and threw for 170 yards on 13 of 26 passing.
“We knew containing (Gordon) was going to be a huge challenge and the defense stepped up,” Alvistur said. “They just like to play. They love to run to the ball. It’s just the character of this team. They have that attitude; they’re just ballers.”
Foothill’s Justice Perri came down with an interception on a botched field goal try in the second quarter but Thomas made sure to find the end zone on the final two drives of the half. He pump faked a throw in the flat before lofting a 27-yard touchdown to Abe Del Real for a 21-7 lead. The Panthers got he ball back with 1:08 to play and Thomas zipped a 19-yard touchdown pass in to Anthony Thomas to finish a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive that lasted 55 seconds to go up 28-7 at half.
It deflated the Cougars, Foothill head coach Joey Brown said.
“Whenever a team scores in the last minute or two of the half it makes it really tough to rebound,” Brown said.
Foothill marched inside the Chico 30-yard line on the next two drives but turned it over on downs and Gordon’s pass was tipped and intercepted by Jalen Johnson. Ty Walker raced up the gut for a 53-yard touchdown four plays later for the backbreaker.
Chico added a 2-yard touchdown run from Cory Jones-Mann in the fourth quarter to initiate the running clock to put the game away.
Del Real caught seven passes for 121 yards, Walker went for 145 yards on 13 carries and Anthony Thomas finished with 74 total yards on eight touches.
Foothill hosts a quarterfinal game next week against struggling Shasta, which lost to Lassen 54-21 on Friday in a rare non-league game at the end of the season. Foothill beat Shasta 49-20 on Oct. 26 to earn the home playoff game.
“The Shasta team is not the same Shasta team that we saw Week 9, this is playoffs for them too and they’re going to be motivated,” Brown said. “We’re all on a cliff and all of the focus is getting better to make it to that prize so we can’t take them lightly. These will be two motivated teams, two exciting offenses and two interesting defenses.”
Chico 42, Foothill 7
Chico 14 14 7 7 – 42
Foothill 7 0 0 0 – 7
C – T. Thomas 37 yd run (Mikles kick); 10:05
F – Carey 58 yd pass from Gordon (Martin kick); 6:45
C – T. Thomas 1 yd run (Mikles kick); 0:21
C – Del Real 27 yd pass from T. Thomas (Mikles kick); 2:01
C – A. Thomas 19 yd pass from T. Thomas (Mikles kick); 0:13
C – Walker 53 yd run (Mikles kick); 2:49
C – Jones-Mann 2 yd run (Mikles kick); 8:15
RUSHING—Chico: Walker 13-145-0, T. Thomas 6-76-0, A. Thomas 5-22-0, Johnson 3-3-0, Jones-Mann 6-16-0, Baker 1-0-0; Foothill: Henderson 14-50-0, Gordon 15-32-0, Rowe 1-6-0.
PASSING—Chico: T. Thomas 14-22-0-209; Owens 0-1-1-0; Foothill: Gordon 13-23-1-170.
RECEIVING—Chico: Del Real 7-121, A. Thomas 3-52, Johnson 1-24, Baker 3-12; Foothill: Carey 1-58, Merryman 3-39, Rowe 1-26, Jacobsen 3-25, Ostergren 4-20, Henderson 1-2.