LAKEWOOD RANCH — Evan Wilson knows he has a plethora of offensive weapons around him every time he breaks out of the huddle.
The Out-of-Door Academy senior quarterback has been fortunate enough to spend the past three-and-a-half years lining up alongside a host of talented wide receivers.
But, what many people outside the Thunder locker room don’t realize is just how special a talent Wilson is in his own right.
However, those who were in attendance during ODA’s non-district game against the Imagine School of North Port Oct. 12 might have a better idea after watching Wilson surpass the 5,000-yard mark for his career.
“It definitely feels good to be recognized for reaching a new milestone,” Wilson says. “I’m very thankful that I have had the opportunity to play in a pass-heavy offense for the last three seasons; and I’ve been surrounded by a lot of talent at the receiver position, which has made my job very easy.”
Wilson completed 11 of 20 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a 21-yard touchdown to lead the Thunder to a 27-14 victory over the Sharks.
“Evan’s a special talent,” coach Brett Timmons says. “I know that he kind of gets overlooked because of where he’s at sometimes. If he were at a bigger place he might get more star power. But, hopefully, people take notice that there is another quarterback in Manatee and Sarasota counties.”
After spending a year-and-a-half as a backup, Wilson took over the reins in the fifth game of his sophomore season against Bradenton Christian and hasn’t looked back since. Wilson has thrown for more than 1,550 yards this season.
“I give a lot of credit to coach (Brett) Timmons for the confidence that he has shown in me over the last four years,” Wilson says. “Even as a freshman and sophomore getting playing time as a backup, he never limited the playbook. It allowed me to mature as a quarterback and gain confidence in myself.”
This season, Wilson has developed a unique chemistry with junior wide receiver Drew Fineberg, who surpassed the 500-yard receiving mark in the Thunder’s victory over the Sharks.
Fineberg, who underwent ACL surgery last fall, caught five passes for 118 yards.
“Since Drew was a freshman, we all knew he would grow into a huge asset to our team,” Wilson says. “He’s had injuries that have held him back in the past, but this year he has stayed healthy and has become a great playmaker. He runs great routes, and he is dangerous for defenses when he has the ball in his hands.”
“He’s been coming on as of late,” Timmons says. “I think he’s finally hitting his stride. He’s a potent weapon. Once he gets the ball, he’s dangerous in the field. He and Evan are developing a special connection.”
ODA (3-3) took a 7-0 lead on a 5-yard touchdown run by J.T. Fischer with 4:13 remaining in the first quarter.
The Thunder extended its lead with 8:46 remaining in the second quarter, when Wilson connected with Austin Hoppe for a 37-yard strike.
Wilson found the end zone again on a 21-yard scramble with 8:01 left in the third quarter to give the host Thunder a 20-0 advantage.
Fischer scored ODA’s final touchdown on a 4-yard carry with 3:02 left in the third quarter.
Imagine School of North Port, which is in its first year, scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter, after ODA began substituting in some of its younger players.
“We tried to empty the bench and get some of the kids who hadn’t played all season long into the game and made some mistakes there at the end,” Timmons says. “I just feel bad for those guys who work all season long; you try to get them into play and then it goes where we have to put the other guys back in. So, hopefully, next week we can get those guys in a little bit again.”
Senior safety Brandon Place recovered a fumble late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for the Thunder. Place also intercepted a Sharks pass in the end zone two plays into the second quarter.
“It made our guys run their antennas up,” Timmons says. “You can’t look at a first-year program as a first-year program. As I told them, we were a first-year program six years ago and we went 6-3, so there were a lot of people who thought they were going to get easy wins on us and we ended up having a winning record.
“You just can’t look at the fact of them being a bunch of freshman and sophomores that we can run roughshod over them,” Timmons says. “They’ve got some talent over there. Once they grow up and mature, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.”
ODA returns to district action Oct. 19, versus Southwest Florida Christian in its homecoming game.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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