Jasawn Thompson of Deer Park loves to roam. That's why his style of defense is so well-suited to being a sideline-to-sideline linebacker.
And that's why the Delaware-bound Thompson did a double-take last week when he was told where he will be playing on the Long Island defensive unit in tonight's 20th Empire Challenge against New York City at 7 p.m. at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.
Defensive end? Seriously?
"At first I didn't like it. I was angry," said Thompson, who was a first-team Newsday All-Long Island linebacker last fall with 76 tackles, five sacks and two forced fumbles. He likes to roam on offense, too, amassing 1,624 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Then the coaching staff explained its reasoning: By rule, blitzing is not permitted in the Boomer Game, thus taking away one of Thompson's greatest assets. But his explosiveness off the ball, quickness and strength could be utilized another way: Line him up at defensive end and turn him loose. Pair him opposite St. Anthony's pass-rushing specialist Peter Corbett (221/2 sacks, 73 tackles, four forced fumbles, also a Newsday first-team All-LI selection).
"We would expect him to be disruptive," Long Island coach Mike Stanley of Carey said. "He's been the most difficult defender for us to block, even with double-teams."
Thompson's primary job is to be an edge rusher. That could be a key factor in hurrying NYC quarterbacks Joe Czelusniak of St. Peter's and Paul Litvak of PSAL champion Lincoln and not allowing them to get the ball downfield to dangerous wide receiver Chris Parker of Poly Prep.
Thompson seems to have embraced his new role. "Once I got into the flow, I was cool with it," he said. "Now, after the snap, I can just go hard after the quarterback."
Lining up at defensive end means Thompson, who is 6-2, 220, will be going up against offensive tackles who are 50-plus pounds heavier than he is. He welcomes the challenge. "Actually, I like playing against bigger guys," he said, smiling. "I know I'm faster than they are and I will use my speed. It'll be fun. Since I'm not playing offense, I won't get hit on every play, and I'm with a lot of other good players."
He also knows that not only is this his final high school game, it very likely is his only one at this new and somewhat unfamiliar position. "When I got moved to D-end, I talked to the Delaware coaches to make sure they were OK with it," Thompson said. "They didn't mind."
So Thompson's mind is clear for the task at hand, and he is very much looking forward to playing for the Blue Hens.
"I'm ready for that," he said, knowing full well that he'll be back at linebacker this fall, where he again can roam the field.
Notes ... quotes: Top NYC running back Brenden Femiano (Poly Prep) started as a sophomore at St. Anthony's before transferring for his final two high school seasons. One of his Friars teammates, defensive end Peter Corbett, may have to tackle a player who again will be a teammate next year. Corbett and Femiano are going to Bryant . . . The LI captains are John Daniggelis (Smithtown East), offense; Conor Colasurdo (Carey), defense, and Connor Farrell (Sachem East), special teams.