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Thunder start season against tough competition

FDLTCC's Ryan Brown celebrates a third-quarter touchdown in Saturday's game against Minnesota West. The Thunder fell 23-14. Jamie Lund/ Pine Journal1 / 2
The Thunder's Frederick Martin, a freshman wide receiver, gets tackled near the sidelines in Saturday's 23-14 loss to Minnesota West. Joshua Watson and Ryan Brown scored for FDLTCC. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal2 / 2

The Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College football team has already faced some adversity this season. It's now time for the ultimate test in how they can handle it.

The Thunder lost 23-14 against Minnesota West last weekend to fall to 0-2 on the young season with a trip to perennial community college football power Rochester next on the horizon.

"The kids tell me they're going to run the table now, and I believe them," Coach Keith Turner said. "We have to learn how to finish but we know there will never be an easy game."

The Thunder had four trips into the red zone last Saturday and came out with one score, and allowed the Bluejays 235 yards rushing.

Sophomore Reuben Linton ran for 164 yards on 17 carries for West.

The Thunder took an early lead when Joshua Watson hauled an interception back 39 yards for a score and a 7-0 lead.

Ryan Brown's 4-yard touchdown run pulled the Thunder within 16-14 in the third quarter but Linton's 27-yard scoring run with 4:06 left put the game away.

"We didn't finish drives," Turner said. "This week, our first practice was looking at the mistakes we made so we can beat Rochester.

"From year to year, you find out what the kids are made of, and you find which kids will keep playing when you have a little adversity," Turner added. "We have enough kids who played against [Rochester] last year with the two games we played against them. They know what it will take to go there and win on their home field. I'm glad that we open up with three of the best teams in the state on our schedule."

A win against Rochester would be the first over that program in school history.

Turner said the quality of the league has improved from top to bottom.

"An easy game isn't going to happen," he said. "Vermilion has gotten better too. You can't take anybody lightly."

Despite the high rushing yardage allowed, Turner was happy with his defense.

"What I liked was our defensive play," he said. "After a physical game against Central Lakes, they played really well. The offensive line came back and showed me something at the end of the game, too. We ended up with a 100-yard rusher and that was one of our goals."

Turner had praise for Barnum's Wyatt Finifrock as well.

"Wyatt has really surprised some people," Turner said. "He has played very well and our front seven, defensive line and linebackers have really done well."

Turner knows it will take a special effort to win on Saturday.

"We aren't lacking confidence," he said. "It comes down to execution and finishing. We just have four kids who do everything they need to do on a play and one guy makes a mistake. [Against West], we score a touchdown if one kid steps to one side and picks up a blitz. We can hear the tackle tell him the blitz is coming and then he steps the wrong way. It's those little things. We had everything else blocked.

"It's just some of the things we need to clean up. We need to trust our teammates when they are telling you what they need to do. We need to trust that the older guys know what they are talking about. But right now the kids are telling me we'll be 6-2. They say, 'Coach, we'll clean this up.'"