Week 8: No. 8 Southington (6-0) at No. 6 East Hartford (6-0), Friday, 6:30 p.m.
EAST HARTFORD – Please keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times.
Make sure your seat belt is fastened and enjoy the ride…
The quarterback takes the snap and sees a hole down the center of the field.
Without hesitation, he hits the opening. One defender gets a stiff arm to the face. Another dives and misses at his feet.
Six defenders in front of him? No worries as he hits the acceleration button and outruns everyone for a 40-yard touchdown.
Welcome to The Raquan Tompkins Experience.
Much like the popular Nike commercial named after then-Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in 2004, Tompkins’ season is something that replicates a video game.
“That video,” Tompkins says of The Michael Vick Experience commercial that he has seen before and re-watched at practice on Monday. “It kind of reminds me of myself when I see that video.”
He’s not wrong.
“I used to love using Michael Vick in (video) games and watching him on TV,” Tompkins said. “I used to love it because he used to break so many tackles and he ran so hard as a quarterback.”
Tompkins has mirrored Vick’s play, beating teams with both his arm and legs. It could even be said that the level he has played at this season is rivaled only by Bo Jackson from Tecmo Bowl and Vick from Madden 2004.
“I think I would put myself over Bo Jackson,” Tompkins said with a laugh. “I feel like he could do it, but he couldn’t do it consistently. I feel like I could do it every game, every play.
“Me and Vick would be fighting for it, but Vick would get it.”
Tompkins, who stands at just 5-foot-7 and weighs 190 pounds, has been putting up video game numbers all year.
The senior quarterback has thrown for 15 touchdowns, rushed for 17 more, returned a kick for a score and he even has a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
That is 33 total touchdowns … in only six games.
“Raquan Tompkins is the best player on this team,” East Hartford coach Rick Milton said. “On any other team, I have a feeling some coaches might say the same thing. I am not going to say he’s the best player in the state, but I am going to tell you he is the best player on this team.
“He was the best player last year and he is the best player this year. We have some very talented kids here. His passion, his football IQ is what sets him apart. He doesn’t back down from any challenge.”
In the Hornets’ first game this season, against South Windsor, he rushed for five touchdowns. Against Glastonbury and Hall, he threw for three touchdowns and rushed for three more, in each game.
“There is nothing that he can’t do,” Milton said. “He hasn’t even played his best game yet.”
Last week, in a 55-27 win over Enfield, Tompkins has his hand in seven touchdowns and 516 total yards. He threw for 338 yards and four touchdowns, rushed for 178 yards and two more scores. He picked up a fumble for a score and ran in three 2-point conversions.
“Hopefully in the next few weeks that ‘best game’ comes out,” Milton said. “He knows he is capable of doing better and he’s not satisfied. As long as he continues to be hungry, he will continue to get better.”
The work Tompkins put in during the offseason apparently has taken his game to another level.
He had a little more than 3,000 yards of total offense and 24 touchdowns, last year. Then Tompkins went to passing camps, worked on his conditioning and hit the weight room. Before every practice this season, the senior says he would arrive at the field early to work with his receivers.
Through six games this season, Tompkins has close to 2,000 yards of total offense to go along with his 33 total touchdowns. The senior is on pace for close to 3,330 yards of total offense and 55 touchdowns during the regular season.
“He’s playing on a high level right now,” East Hartford senior wide receiver Jaydon Gardener said. “But it’s what we expected out of him, especially coming in to this year after last year’s stats he put up. It’s not a surprise to anyone, I don’t think.”
Gardener is joined by Jaquan Allen, Quinton Haughton and Sam Valentine to form a dominating receiving corps. David Ortiz is in the backfield to fill out the explosive Hornets’ offense.
“He goes out there and does his thing,” Allen said. “We go out there and do our thing: Catch the ball and get as much yards as we can.”
“It’s crazy what we have here,” Gardener added. “The firepower we have here is crazy.”
In the Hornets’ win over Enfield last week, Allen caught all four touchdown passes from Tompkins and finished the game with 11 receptions and 270 yards.
“He is lucky that he has those skill guys around him because some of those guys deserve so much attention that it allows him to display his abilities a little bit better,” Milton said.
Tompkins couldn’t agree more.
“It makes my job so much easier,” he said. “When my wide receivers go out for routes, everyone is watching them. (Opponents) have to worry about them and they can’t just worry about me.
“When David Ortiz is flying out of the backfield, the linebackers have to go with him because they don’t know if I am going to throw him the ball. It helps me out more because it makes it easier for me to run, or if they’re watching me, it makes it easier for (teammates) to get yards.”
What we’ve all been waiting for
Last year, East Hartford shocked the state when it defeated Southington, 27-20.
East Hartford hadn’t beaten Southington the previous 20 tries and it was the Blue Knights’ first regular season loss since 2013 – a span of 41 games.
Tompkins hit Gardener for the game-winning 41-yard touchdown with less than a minute left.
— Pete Paguaga (@PetePaguaga) October 28, 2017
It was a coming out party for East Hartford, which reached the postseason for the first time in 30 years.
“Last year a lot of people would say that we were young,” Tompkins said. “We were still juniors and we weren’t as experienced, but we knew that we could do it.”
Even as the undefeated Hornets prepare to play the undefeated Blue Knights on Friday night, the team has left last year behind.
“It’s a completely different game,” Tompkins said. “We look at what they got now, not what they had last year. We know they lost a lot of seniors, but we don’t care about that. We know they are always going to have good players and good coaches.”