Highlands quarterback goes from freaked-out freshman to record-breaking senior

Thursday, August 18, 2022 | 6:08 PM

A career that literally began by accident will end up rewriting the record book at Highlands.

Senior quarterback Chandler Thimons was a wet-behind-the-ears freshman when out of nowhere he got the starting nod to be the Golden Rams signal caller.

“I can still remember that day,” Thimons said. “It was picture day and (Tyler Brzezinski) hit a dummy (blocking) pad walking off the field after practice and injured his shoulder.

“I went home and I called (my brother) Brayden and I told him. I was kind of freaking out. I wasn’t expecting it to come so fast.”

From the point on, the one-time elementary school ball boy and middle-school cameraman began his quarterback journey.

Highlands football general manager Mike Choma was there when the events transpired. Choma put things in perspective real fast for Thimons.

“I said, ‘It’s your job. Take it,’” said Choma, who along with Mike Pavlik team up for the Highlands football gameday broadcasts.

“He went in hesitant. He had a brother, Brayden, who was a strong quarterback for us for four years too. I just told him that Brayden did it, why don’t you?”

First-year coach Matt Bonislawski, a 2002 Highlands grad, cracked a quick smile when asked about coming into a new program with a three-year starter at quarterback.

“It helps,” said Bonislawski, who went on to play quarterback at UConn. “He’s played and been through the games before. It’s nothing new.”

Thimons has been the epitome of consistency for Highlands. From his freshman to junior seasons, he’s passed for 1,356, 1,363 and 1,340 yards.

Thimons is also on his way to breaking the Alle-Kiski Valley’s record for career passing yards set by Deer Lakes’ Aris Hasley in 2019. Hasley finished with 4,752 yards. Thimons is at his heels with 4,059 yards, a Highlands record. He’s also tallied 44 touchdown passes and has 12 rushing touchdowns to his credit.

As a freshman, Thimons had to wait three weeks before he threw his first touchdown to DJ Loveland in a 30-12 loss to Blackhawk.

It was a bumpy start for Thimons and the Golden Rams as they had to wait five weeks before hitting the win column in a 27-0 victory over Beaver. Nothing came easy for Thimons during his freshman season.

“I’ll tell you what helped him too was that he had his cousin, Daniel, as the center,” Choma said. “He’s gotten better every year. I think that’s the most important thing.

“The other advantage is, he’s been coached by quarterbacks.”

Prior to Bonislawski, Thimons learned the trade from former head coach Dom Girardi. Like Bonislawski, Girardi played quarterback in college, first at Duquesne before transferring to Jacksonville University. It’s safe to say that Thimons has a four-year degree in how to play quarterback.

The position comes with more responsibilities than running the offense. It also comes with a leadership role, and that’s where Bonislawski has seen the most growth from Thimons.

“He’s improved since we first started,” Bonislawski said. “First, it’s his leadership. I think he’s gotten better at being a leader and setting examples for kids.

“I think a lot of the kids look up to him for a leadership role and he’s filled those shoes well.”

Thimons has embraced his role as a leader. Not too long ago, the team had to rally around him. Now, Thimons is rallying his team to what he hopes is a strong postseason run at a WPIAL Class 4A championship.

“I never wanted to go into my career just to break records,” Thimons said. “I want to be remembered for winning a championship.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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