For the first time ever, the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College football team will play in the MCAC playoffs as a division champion.
The Thunder (5-3) dismissed Vermilion Community College 47-22 last week to win the North Division championship on a tie-breaker - and now turns right around to play Vermilion in the first round of the playoffs at 4 p.m. Friday at Duluth's Public Schools Stadium.
"I'm really excited for our kids and our coaches," Thunder Coach Keith Turner said. "I've worked them into the ground and now we see the rewards paying off in a division championship."
The Thunder took all the fun out of the game last week, scoring early and often to grab control of the game. Star running back Victor Griffin was given a partial night off to rest him for playoffs, and Antonio Marshall stepped in to the void, rushing 10 times for 103 yards and three scores.
"Antonio got more carries to help save Victor," Turner said. Griffin still won the league rushing title with 972 yards for the season and is expected to reach the 1,000-yard barrier during this weekend's playoff game, needing just 28 yards.
"The main thing I liked about that game was that we blocked really well and our backs got vertical right away," Turner said. "There was none of that lateral stuff. Once we hit the hole, we got vertical and outran people. Defensively, we played lights out."
Turner was also pleased with the play of defensive back Joshua Watson, who performed very well in nickel situations.
"He had played sparingly to that point but he showed he needs to be on the field a lot more," Turner said.
Now, though, the focus is on the "second season."
"The main focus is to stay focused on winning a playoff game, and then winning another playoff game, and getting a chance to play for a state championship," Turner said.
By virtue of being a No. 1 seed, the Thunder would earn the right to stay at home by winning on Friday against Vermilion. And if so, they would host either Ridgewater or Rochester in the semifinals Oct. 27.
That means special emphasis in practice on what's at stake.
"Now it's one and done," Turner said. "We just don't want them looking ahead."
That might be more difficult, playing an opponent for the second straight week that it just beat by 25 points.
"We want to make sure they understand in practice that there aren't any lulls, no thoughts that everything will come easy because we beat them by 25 points," Turner said. "We have to stay steady and execute our game plan."
Now, though, the Thunder will have expectations as a division champion.
"It's an accomplishment," Turner said. "It's unbelievable, the buzz around the college and how excited everybody is. We don't have any injuries except for those we lost every early in the year. We are 55 strong right now."