After an incredibly successful senior season on the high school gridiron, Randleman High School’s Thomas Dobias and Eastern Randolph High School’s Jani Norwood closed out their prep careers in annual all-star games last week.
Dobias was a member of the West squad, which dropped a 35-7 decision to the East in the annual East-West All-Star Game, which is usually played in July but moved to December so more players can compete.
Norwood headed to Spartanburg, SC, to represent North Carolina in the Shrine Bowl Game, a contest the Sandlappers won, 24-0.
Despite the outcomes of the games, the experience will be quite beneficial and provide lasting memories for both Randolph County standouts, who led their teams to stellar campaigns.
“I had an amazing experience, met a lot of friends and created bonds with a lot of dudes,” Dobias said of his four-day stay in the East-West All-Star Game.”I learned I can compete with them. One of the main reasons I came was to see if I could compete with them.
“There was definitely more talent than I was used to and I fit right in. It was extremely important for me to get a feel for college football. Two-a-day practices. It prepared me for what I’m going to see in college.”
Dobias, at 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, is still unsure where he will play collegiately, but he did say he would play football in college. At present, he’s looking at Mars Hill, Catawba, Carson-Newman and Western Carolina.
In the 76th edition of the East-West Game played Dec. 16 at Jamieson Stadium in Greensboro, the East pulled away in the final three quarters to record the win. The East broke a 7-7 tie after one quarter and added three more scores for the win.
Dobias had seven tackles for the West, including one solo and six assists.
Dobias said the players and coaches were kept quite busy during their stay.
“We checked in and went right straight to practice,” Dobias said. “They kept us pretty busy. On Friday, we went to an elementary school and played with the kids outside and that may have been my favorite part of everything. Those kids really look up to you.”
Dobias is a true student-athlete. He was a member of the Principal’s List, Beta Club and he was a member of the Senior Principal Advisory Committee. He was also a Junior Marshall. He plans on majoring in biology and pursue a career in environmental conservation.
The game was originally scheduled for Sunday. Dec. 17, but was moved up one day for weather purposes.
Dobias is the first RHS football player to be named to the East-West Game since Chase Causey and Kyle Farlow earned that honor in 2012.
The biggest surprise for Dobias?
“The size of the linemen was surprising,” he said. “They were huge.”
The linemen at the Shrine Bowl Game shared similar characteristics. One of those was Norwood, an early enrollee at UNC, who is currently practicing with the team in preparation for the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, which will be played Dec. 27 in Charlotte. Norwood is getting a grand opportunity to assimilate into the Tar Heels’ culture.
Before, he was in South Carolina for the 87th annual Shrine Bowl Game.
“It was a great experience, I met a lot of great players from not only North Carolina but South Carolina,” said Norwood, who is listed at 6-4 and 305 pounds. “I made some new friends and it was a great experience.”
Norwood, who was named the defensive player of the year in Randolph County, was selected as an offensive lineman.
One of the memories Norwood said he will always cherish came while visiting the Shriners Hospital.
“It opens your eyes to how blessed we really are,” he said. “These kids are wishing they could be in the position we are in. Sometimes we take life for granted. Like going outside to run. There are people fighting every day just to do that.”
Although the final outcomes of the two all-star games didn’t go the way each of the Randolph County players had hoped, there were plenty of lessons learned and friendships made. And those are invaluable.