Already a star, Marlington's Dymonte Thomas is still learning

Todd Porter
Updated: Friday, November 12, 2010
Marlington’s Dymonte Thomas stretches before a recent  game. Thomas shines at running back for the Dukes, but he also starts on defense, the side of the ball that he enjoys most and the side where he has the most to learn since he plays multiple positions. REPOSITORY FILE<br /><div id="dfp-300x250" style="float:right;"><script type="text/javascript">googletag.display("dfp-300x250");</script></div>
Marlington’s Dymonte Thomas stretches before a recent game. Thomas shines at running back for the Dukes, but he also starts on defense, the side of the ball that he enjoys most and the side where he has the most to learn since he plays multiple positions. REPOSITORY FILE

LEXINGTON TWP.  When he first walked into Marlington High School Stadium, Dymonte Thomas can’t remember all the specifics. But he remembers what it felt like.

The stadium, he said, was dingy. The field was muddy. The team wasn’t all that good.

And then Thomas made the decision to leave Alliance High School and come to Marlington, where his father starred at quarterback in the 1980s.

“I remember coming out here at the old field with the raggedy stadium,” Thomas said. “Then my freshman year I was here and we made the playoffs. Then it became if we made the playoffs then, we should make it this year and win state.”

Just a sophomore, Thomas still is learning the game. He’s still learning the defense, and there’s a lot to learn since he plays defensive end, nose tackle, linebacker and safety.

And that’s not even taking into account that he’s a third of the Dukes’ starting backfield.

Thomas has a lot of football in front of him. He is among the best players in the county and he’s one of the reasons why Marlington has gone through a football transformation.

Looking back on his first impression of Marlington to where the program is now isn’t a comparison, Thomas said.

But Dukes head coach Ed Miley isn’t surprised at the progress the team made since Thomas first laid eyes on his father’s high school team.

“That’s what we came here to do really,” Miley said. “We started 6-0 that first year and finished 6-4. We met with the kids that last night and we appreciated what they did, but we didn’t come here to go 6-4. We came here to do things bigger than that.”

That’s now. Marlington will play Licking Valley at Woody Hayes Stadium in New Philadelphia on Saturday night at 7 in a Division III regional semifinal game. No football team from Marlington has been this far in the playoffs. Heck, the program got its first postseason win last week.

While Thomas isn’t the only reason why the Dukes are winning, he’s a big reason why the program’s immediate future looks bright. Miley refused to say if he’s the best player he has ever coached, and how could he?

There’s Alden Hill, a junior running back who has the school’s career, single-season and game rushing records. There’s Zach Higgins, 300-pound junior offensive tackle who moves man and earth to open holes. Then there’s a cast of role players and a couple others who could be Division I college players.

“(Dymonte) is pretty special,” Miley said. “What’s different about him for a skilled kid is how physical he is. People see him and they expect a speed guy. They expect a finesse guy. That’s not him.”

Thomas gets noticed on offense because once he gets into the open field, he’s capable of taking it to the end zone every time. It’s opposing running backs and quarterbacks who should be taking notice.

There may not be a harder hitter in Stark County. If he had to pick one side of the ball to play, and only one, Thomas wouldn’t be a star scoring touchdowns.

“I love defense,” he said. “I just like going out there and hitting people. You see people on ESPN getting hit real hard. Those plays make the highlights. I’d like to be on ESPN one day hitting somebody.”

That could happen. Inevitably, when college recruiters come to see one of Marlington’s juniors or seniors, they ask about the young kid. Cincinnati even sent a coach to inquire about Thomas specifically.

Before his eighth-grade year, Thomas made the decision to transfer from Alliance City Schools and open enroll at Marlington. His father, Frank Thomas, started at quarterback for the Dukes.

“Since I was little playing football in Alliance, any time we’d scrimmage Marlington my dad would tell me about them,” Thomas said. “And I was always like, ‘Dad, no. I’m staying at Alliance.’

“I came here for the education and to get help with the ACT and get prepared for college. The education here is a lot harder.”

Thomas has the kind of personality that lights up more than a room. He could be one of the most popular kids in the high school.

“He definitely has persona to him,” Miley said. “He has a big personality, and he has a big smile.”

Thomas flashes that big smile when he talks about playing against his younger step-brother, Kordelle Phillips. He’s a freshman quarterback at Alliance. There’s a good chance the two will meet on the same field next fall.

“I tell him every night if he ever has a chance to roll out of the pocket and I’m coming for him, he better just lay down,” Thomas said, laughing. “Every night I tell him I’m coming for him. He’s like, ‘You can’t tackle me ... I’ll shake you.’ Yeah, once he’s on the bottom of the pile I can’t get in trouble at home for anything that happens on the field, so he better hurry up and get up.”

That’s family.

Imagine what it’s like for strangers.