To understand Trent Tompkins and his age-defying accomplishments as a sophomore quarterback at Central High entering a historical showdown with Bakersfield on Friday night, it is perhaps best to first understand Pops.
And to truly know Tod Tompkins is to shovel deep beyond his perfect smile, GQ looks, booster club presidency, a professional career tied to his heart – special-education students – and, oh, by the way, his background as a former four-year starting high school point guard at Washington and Clovis who could dunk without being a 6-footer and then played on scholarship for four years at Fresno Pacific.
For all the gloss of that bio, know this: Tod Tompkins played outside of the box.
BMX racers don’t play inside.
BMX racers fly 30 to 40 mph downhill on 15-pound bicycles, leap to the stars and make aggressive turns while throwing elbows with the opposition – all a bone-breaking crash away from disaster.
Accomplished BMX racers are bold, fearless and abundantly athletic.
And Tod Tompkins was world class.
He hoisted a World Cup trophy at age 8 in Nashville, Tenn., and ultimately was being groomed for the Oympics, but BMX racing didn’t become a medal sport until the 2008 Games in Beijing. He was so established internationally he had a bike named after him, the “Tod Tompkins Limited.”
Trenton Randall Tompkins – named after former Fresno State quarterback Trent Dilfer and clearly gifted with Dad’s genes – merely wants to hoist a Central Section Division I championship plaque at Koligian Stadium in west Fresno.
Specifically, he wants to do the heavy lifting for top-seeded Central, 11-1 and ranked 25th in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, and that’s profound in his story.
While he was enormously successful in virtually everything in Central district elementary and middle schools – football, basketball, wrestling, baseball, track, you name it – he also spent a considerable amount of time playing travel basketball and baseball with teams from Clovis North and Buchanan in Clovis Unified.
Many of those teammates encouraged him to transfer out of the Central attendance area and play for their high schools.
And it nearly happened.
I was more comfortable here as a Grizzly. I was more comfortable here where I grew up with my friends. Central quarterback Trent Tompkins, on why he didn’t transfer into Clovis Unified
“Before his seventh-grade year,” Tod Tompkins says, “we actually had a house rented in the Clovis North area, and he was registered at (Clovis North feeder) Fugman Elementary. We were all set.”
It was Trent’s call.
And Central won.
“I was more comfortable here as a Grizzly,” he says. “I was more comfortable here where I grew up with my friends. I also had good friends at Clovis North and Buchanan and, over time, they were telling me, ‘Come, come, come.’ But I just felt home here at Central. And I wanted them to win more.”
It was more than that, as Dad explains: “He wanted to be the first quarterback to win Valley at Central.”
That hasn’t happened in the 86-year history of the program, according to section historian Bob Barnett. The Grizzlies have lost in three section finals, the most recent, 27-10, to Clovis North in in D-I in 2012. The others were 14-0 to Washington in 1992 (Sequoia Division Large Schools) and 40-0 to Woodlake in 1948 (section Small Schools).
Trent Tompkins won’t be contending for a world title, as his father did 33 years ago, but it might feel that way against the oppressive and second-seeded Drillers (10-2), whose defensive linemen have long thrown traditional three-point stances out the window while standing, dancing and firing with two more levels of assault behind them at linebacker and in the secondary.
Simply, for all his brilliance in a school-record season for passing yards (2,977) and touchdown passes (35), in addition to his innate ability to run the offense out of trouble – “He’s Houdini, master of the broken play,” Clovis coach Rich Hammond says – Tompkins will be a 16-year-old under heat on an otherwise frigid night forecast to be 46 degrees at kickoff.
Never will be there be a better night for him to draw deeply from those genetics, if not a BMX rider’s ability to anticipate the next turn while making split-second decisions under duress, then against Bakersfield, the state record holder with 36 section titles.
Drillers coach Paul Golla – 118-33 (.781) with four of those crowns in 12 years – sees talent and intelligence, not youth, in Tompkins: “Lights out, that kid. Very few kids can scramble like that and throw on a dime. And he has exceptionally high football IQ for a sophomore.”
Lights out, that kid. Very few kids can scramble like that and throw on a dime. And he has an exceptionally high football IQ for a sophomore. Bakersfield coach Paul Golla, on Tompkins
The benefits of the family tree extend to the mother’s side.
Tina Tompkins, a Central High teacher, is a former Righetti-Santa Maria and Fresno State cheerleader whose father, Mario Cosma, played professional baseball as a flame-throwing pitcher and whose brother, Mario Jr., played college baseball as a catcher.
Tod Tompkins, recognizing his son’s potential at an early age, routinely had him play up in age in football camps while also exposing him to the section’s elite quarterbacks, such as Derek Carr (Bakersfield Christian), Tyler Bray (Kingsburg), Cody Kessler (Centennial) and Josh Allen (Firebaugh).
“Anybody I heard who could be a next-level kid, I want Trent to see what their approach was,” Dad says. “And it’s for moments like this Friday I did that. I envisioned him some day playing at Bakersfield’s Griffith Field in a tough environment for a Valley championship; that’s what I tried to prepare him for. So this stage is not big for him, but I didn’t expect it to come this soon.”
The son says: “There’s going to be pressure in a Valley championship game, but I don’t really feel it. I just try to prepare as much as I can.”
Central first-year coach Kyle Biggs, Clovis’ season record holder for passing yards (3,557 in 1997, when the Cougars beat Bakersfield for the Yosemite Division title), has dropped the hammer on Tompkins.
“I’m very hard on him,” says Biggs, who will attempt to become the only player and coach to defeat Bakersfield in a section final. “I’m so hard on him because I want Friday nights to be easy on him.”
Playing Bakersfield under Friday Night Lights isn’t easy.
“Trent’s a cool cat, man,” Biggs says. “This moment isn’t too big for him.”
Central Section championships
All games at 7 p.m. Friday
DIVISION I: No. 2 Bakersfield (10-2) at No. 1 Central (11-1)
D-II: No. 6 Ridgeview (7-5) at No. 1 Sanger (12-0)
D-III: No. 2 Tulare Western (9-3) at No. 1 Bakersfield Christian (11-1)
D-IV: No. 3 Chowchilla (10-1) at No. 1 Selma (12-0)
D-V: No. 3 Firebaugh (11-2) at No. 1 Mendota (12-0)
D-VI: No. 2 Sierra Pacific (8-4) at No. 1 Strathmore (12-0)