Justin Thompson had just watched his counterpart stumble and miss a late extra point. But he didn’t care about that — or the rain, or the wind, or even the pressure.
He was calm and accurate, as usual.
Thompson’s extra point with 19 seconds remaining was the difference in Aquinas’ 17-16 win Friday in the state semifinals against Mount Pisgah Christian. The junior also made a 44-yard field goal on the last play of the first half as his stellar season continued.
He’s been an unruffled weapon for the Irish, who go for their first state championship when they play Calvary Day at 2:30 p.m. Friday for the Class A private state title in the Georgia Dome.
“When he missed it, the only thing going through my mind was, ‘We go down and score, I’ll make it for my team,’ ” Thompson said Tuesday.
“Pressure really doesn’t affect how I play. It actually motivates me to do better.”
As a freshman, Thompson was a member of Aquinas’ 2012 state championship boys soccer team. During the title run, he scored in Aquinas’ 2-1 overtime win in the first playoff game and had another tally in a 2-1 semifinal triumph against Providence Christian.
Months earlier, soccer teammate Connor Tierney made seven field goals in the 2011 football state playoffs, but because Tierney was a senior, Aquinas needed a kicker for the 2012 season. With some urging, Thompson decided to try football.
As a sophomore, Thompson kicked a field goal from as far away as 42 yards. This season, the junior gives the Irish the special teams edge single-handedly, as he’s 12 for 13 on field goals with a best of 48 yards while also making 57 of 59 extra points. On kickoffs, 66.3 percent of his 83 attempts have gone for touchbacks.
Even when the offense is stopped, Thompson is there — he averages 42 yards per punt.
Thompson is Aquinas’ quietest key contributor.
“He’s not a big talker,” Aquinas coach James Leonard said. “He reminds me of myself a little bit. He doesn’t talk a whole lot, doesn’t smile a whole lot, doesn’t have a whole lot to say. He’s very calm all the time. Even in soccer games, he’s very calm. He knows how to handle pressure very well.”
Thompson has been at his best in stressful spots. In the regular-season finale against First Presbyterian, with the region title on the line, he made a 38-yard field goal. Later, after one of his extra points was blocked, he booted a 41-yard field goal with 5:56 remaining. With the Irish up seven after the make, they survived when First Presbyterian botched its try because of miscommunication following a touchdown.
All that was just the prelude to his kicks in the semifinals, which put the Irish just one win away.
“We made history and now we just need to make a little bit more and win state,” Thompson said.