RIALTO — Tom Hoak had an unusual problem this season. His star player, Glenn Thompkins, kept sneaking onto the football field when Hoak wasn't looking.
Thompkins is the senior quarterback at Eisenhower High, the top-ranked team in the state. Since the middle of the season, he has also played a variety of positions on defense. He also returns punts.
But when the Eagles (13-0) have comfortable leads, Thompkins has been pulled to avoid injury.
In those situations, Hoak was often startled to see his top player lining up at offensive guard or defensive end.
"Glenn would run onto the field without me seeing him and tell the guys in the huddle I sent him out to play a certain position," Hoak said. "They didn't question him, and he might play a few downs before someone would catch him.
"Glenn just loves to play football, and it does not matter what position, what game or what the score is. He wants to be out on the field all 48 minutes."
Hoak finally assigned his top assistant, Brian Latner, to take Thompkins' helmet when he was out of the game.
"It was a much easier solution than assigning someone to try and keep track of him," Hoak said. "That would be an impossible task."
Thompkins is actually hoping he will be relieved tonight when Eisenhower takes on Mater Dei (12-1) for the Southern Section's Division I championship at Anaheim Stadium. Kickoff is at 7:30, and the game will be carried live by Channel 13. Thompkins figures an early exit will mean the Eagles have a big lead.
The game is a rematch of the 1991 Division I title game, won by Mater Dei, 35-14. Thompkins, 17, was a sophomore then and a reserve quarterback. He played during the second half and scored on a 76-yard run. Hoak knew then he had something to look forward to.
Thompkins, whose older brother, Demond, was an All-Southern Section receiver for the Eagles from 1988-90, started his junior year and led Eisenhower to a 6-0-1 record before suffering a season-ending injury in a game against archrival Fontana.
A day of heavy rains left Fontana's field muddy and slick, and Thompkins said he slipped while making a cut during a run. Several Fontana players fell on him, breaking his right leg. The Eagles lost, 28-20, and finished second in the Citrus Belt League. They qualified for the playoffs but were ousted in the semifinals by eventual champion La Puente Bishop Amat.
This season, Thompkins has been at his best. At 5 feet 9 and 163 pounds, he is no giant, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in quickness and strength.
He is an option quarterback who has thrown for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 640 yards and eight touchdowns. On defense, he plays almost anywhere. And he prefers being a two-way starter.
The Eagles are ranked No. 1 in the Southland by The Times, No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 2 in the nation by USA Today. Hoak points to Thompkins as the main reason.
"In three years here, he's only had one bad game," Hoak said. "And that was last week against (Encino) Crespi. He struggled, and, subsequently, we struggled."
Eisenhower won, 7-3.
When Newhall Hart was poised for an upset in early October, Thompkins responded by scoring what proved to be the winning touchdown in the third quarter. The Eagles won, 15-14.
"He's so versatile that he can break you in many different ways," said Mike Herrington, Hart's coach.
College recruiters are equally impressed. The Eisenhower senior is expected to sign with UCLA in February, but he also plans to visit Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Kansas.
"Every school is recruiting me for a different position," Thompkins said. "I don't care what I play, as long as I'm out on the field."
Division I Championship
Mater Dei vs. Rialto Eisenhower
RECORDS--Mater Dei (12-1), Eisenhower (13-0)
SITE--Anaheim Stadium, 7:30 p.m.
MATER DEI--The Monarchs are not the most talented team around, or even in this game, but they have found ways to win the last three weeks. The Monarchs beat Santa Fe Springs St. Paul, 17-14, on two great catches by Michael-John Rzeznik. They beat Long Beach Poly, 17-14, when the Jackrabbits had a game-tying field goal nullified by a penalty and then missed a second try. Mater Dei rallied in the second half to beat Lancaster Antelope Valley, 15-11, in the semifinals. Such determination is hard to discount. But for this one, the Monarchs are a little beat up. Quarterback John Flynn, who has made a basketful of big plays during the playoffs, has a foot injury. Defensive end Derrick Ford, the team's leader in sacks, has a sprained ankle. Defensive back Jason Lundstrom also has a sprained ankle. They will all start. Still, the Monarchs have persevered. Flynn's numbers haven't been great in the playoffs, but he's thrown a game-winning touchdown in each of the three games. Tailback Steve Bodnar is fully recovered from a sprained ankle, which makes the Mater Dei running game dangerous.