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Nevada Preps Coach of the Year: Desert Oasis’ Todd Thomson

Desert Oasis’ flag football team was primed to make a run at the Class 4A state title this past season.

The Diamondbacks came up short in the 2022 title game in Todd Thomson’s first year as coach and returned a core group of players who made them one of the favorites for the 2023 title.

But early in the season, tragedy struck. One of their players, Ashari Hughes, died following a game on Jan. 5 after going into cardiac arrest.

The team chose to honor Hughes and play in her memory. They honored her by capping off a dominant 23-2 season by winning the 4A state title in February.

The way Thomson helped guide the Diamondbacks through an unthinkable tragedy to a state title has earned him the honor as the Nevada Preps All-Southern Nevada Coach of the Year.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through as a coach, but it was also a magical season,” Thomson said. “They had a good chance to win state … and they did it despite everything that they went through, because of everything they went through, or a combination of both.”

Desert Oasis’ decision to return to play following Hughes’ death wasn’t easy. As they resumed the season and made a run at a state title, Thomson said the character displayed by leaders on the team blew him away.

“There were a lot of times in my own personal grieving where I would get strength from just watching them be there for each other,” Thomson said.

In the 4A state title game played at the Raiders’ headquarters in Henderson, the Diamondbacks pulled away in the second half for a 28-6 victory over Legacy. After they won the title, the players chanted Hughes’ name while raising the state championship trophy. Thomson gave the game ball to Hughes’ mother, Twayne.

Thomson had established himself as one of the top flag football coaches in the city with his Apex Predators club team. Having taught elementary school previously, Thomson’s success with his club team caught the eye of Desert Oasis as a model for how the school wanted its flag football program to look.

When he joined Desert Oasis for the 2021-22 season, it was his first time coaching high school. He said there are several differences between the high school and club levels, such as high school being seven-on-seven compared to five-on-five for club flag football.

Thomson wasn’t sure what to expect in their first game against SLAM Academy, so he ran the game as a trial run to find out what would work for high school flag football.

“I was literally calling the girls over to the sideline with this binder and then sprinting back before the play clock was out just to try to get through these 40 plays that we had to see what I liked and what I didn’t,” Thomson said.

Along with coaching flag football, Thomson was tasked with coaching the Desert Oasis boys soccer team this season. Thomson played soccer in high school and said the sport was his first love, but this was his first time coaching high school soccer.

Desert Oasis’ boys soccer team finished 14-4-2, was a 4A state semifinalist and Thomson was the 4A coach of the year. He gave credit to assistant Rachel Mac, who played college soccer, for helping him along the way.

After a few months of reflection, Thomson said winning the flag football state title is still “unreal.” During his reflection, he said the support he and the team received from the school and flag football community was special.

“You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with,” Thomson said.

What Thomson will remember most about this season is the bond the players created with one another and with Ashari’s family.

“It’s going to be something that they’re going to carry for the rest of their lives,” Thomson said. “The experience, not just the tragedy, but how tight they became through it all. That makes me proud knowing that I got to be a part of something so special.”

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on Twitter.

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