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LB Thomas makes his hits count

A look at some of the more unheralded players on Plant's roster.

Plant coach Robert Weiner remembers the moment well two years ago when the Panthers were fighting through a three-win season and then-sophomore linebacker Brent Thomas emerged to give a young team its first win.

Thomas' two late fourth-quarter sacks sealed a 10-7 win over Leto, a game that at that time was no gimme.

"All the way back to his sophomore year, when you look up to see who just made the big play, Brent's been there," Weiner said. "He was a sophomore back then just running around, but he's excitable. He's passionate about the game."

Now a senior, Thomas is the Panthers' leading tackler with 131. Weiner has seen firsthand Thomas grow from a rangy defender to a fearsome hitter.

"The guy hits unbelievably," Weiner said. "His physical presence really changes every game. There are people who don't want to go into an area where he is. Brent's a free spirit, and Brent's an adventurer. He'll go for anything. He's always playing right on that edge. He always changes the tone and the tenor of every football game. He's one of the strongest kids I've been around."

Thomas credits two years of dedicating himself in the weight room. Weiner calls Thomas, who has added about 20 pounds of muscle over the past two years, a "dedicated maniac" in the weight room.

"The attitude has changed," Thomas said. "The 3-7 team had a lot of great athletes, but this year we worked really well as a team. When everybody works together, everything else just falls into place."

Eduardo A. Encina, Times staff writer

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