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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Dressed to Thrill

Hueneme's Thompson Brings Splashy Gear, Flashy Moves

November 27, 1998|TRIS WYKES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

OXNARD — Maria Oliver knows her name is spelled out on Donald Thompson's football helmet. But finding it can be difficult, considering Thompson's headgear resembles a billboard.

"Donald wants to be different," said Oliver, Thompson's girlfriend. "It makes me laugh, but I'm glad he has my name on there."

Thompson, a senior running back at Hueneme High, plasters his helmet with stickers that spell out his name, Oliver's name and the name of a former coach.

The stickers compete for attention with various other decals, as well as a facemask striped with red tape that resembles a candy cane.

San Marcos (4-7), which hosts Hueneme (6-4-1) at 7:30 tonight in a Southern Section Division IV quarterfinal game, will get its first look at Thompson's get-up but is probably aware that his strong suit is making big plays.

Thompson, 5 feet 10 and 160 pounds, has rushed for 1,746 yards and 27 touchdowns while averaging 9.2 yards per carry. In addition, he has two touchdown receptions and two kickoff returns for touchdowns, giving him 186 points.

Thompson's speed and shifty moves have served him well in Hueneme's wing-T offense. Opponents concerned with the formation's misdirection plays must also worry about collaring a fast and elusive runner.

Thompson doesn't sweat the attention from defenders. When you wear as many as eight wristbands on your arms, legs, chinstrap and belt, you have sweat under control.

Thompson buys new wristbands the day before each game.

Throw in a pair of receiver gloves and a lycra bodysuit--red for home games, white on the road--and Thompson is finally ready for kickoff.

"With stretching and getting dressed mixed together, it takes about 45 minutes," he said. "I'm supposed to go out for pregame [drills] with the specialists, but I never make it."

Hueneme Coach Larry Miller, who makes his players run windsprints for having their jerseys untucked or for wearing bandanas beneath their helmets, sighs when asked about Thompson's adornments.

"We just leave Donald alone and let him run," Miller said. "The kids have been playing real tough lately, so I've been pretty lenient with that stuff."

Thompson did incur Miller's wrath in Hueneme's opener when he played with his ankles and shoes wrapped in yellow fluorescent athletic tape. He returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, but Hueneme was routed by Alemany, 46-21, the Vikings' only loss on the field. The team forfeited three nonleague victories for using an ineligible player.

Since the Alemany game, Thompson has wrapped his shoes with red tape and Hueneme has been on a roll. The Vikings average 409 yards and more than 40 points a game, and won the Pacific View League title, their first championship since 1987 and their first outright title since 1969.

The maturation of Thompson, who last season split time in the backfield, has been a significant factor in the Vikings' rise. Thompson's speed to the outside, combined with his knack for finding holes, is impressive.

But Dan Dolby, Hueneme's offensive coordinator, said his wingback had a lot to learn when he arrived on the varsity last year.

"It's been a two-year journey," Dolby said. "Once he gets past the line of scrimmage he can do what he wants, but in the backfield he's had to learn to follow his guards and where their blocks are going to be."

Guards Tyrone Tutogi and Taavili Pollard have been particularly effective on a standout line that paves Thompson's way.

"If you're out there on the corner," Dolby said, "there's nothing worse than 275-pound linemen running at you full-steam and then trying to spot Donald behind them."

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