Thunder football loses heartbreakerThe Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College football team took a lead into the fourth quarter last Saturday in Worthington against Minnesota West – but couldn’t hold on in a 33-28 setback that dropped the Thunder to 1-1 on the young season.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College football team took a lead into the fourth quarter last Saturday in Worthington against Minnesota West – but couldn’t hold on in a 33-28 setback that dropped the Thunder to 1-1 on the young season.
Leading 28-27 in the fourth quarter, the Thunder allowed Bluejays punt returner Calvin Robertson to dash 63 yards for a score that turned the tide and led to the loss.
“We had too many mistakes,” Thunder Coach Keith Turner said. “We can’t do that on the road. We gave up two big plays, the punt return and the other on a turnover and a short field.”
The game featured five lead changes and 246 yards rushing from Thunder freshman running back James Griffin, including an 80-yard scamper on the team’s first play from scrimmage in the second half.
“[Minnesota West] had a guy with an angle on James on that play and he just ran away from him,” Turner said. “I’m standing on the sideline thinking we’re going to have second down on the 20 and then we’re in the end zone.”
The Thunder defense forced turnovers on two of the first five Bluejays plays from scrimmage, and Cody Anderson’s touchdown pass to Chaise Jokinen gave the visitors a quick 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
After Griffin’s touchdown gave FDLTCC a 14-13 lead in the third quarter, Rial Wells picked off Bluejays quarterback Logan Massop for a 63-yard pick six that gave the Thunder a 21-13
Minnesota West picked up the next two scores before Antonio Marshall’s 8-yard run late in the third quarter made it 28-27 for FDLTCC, before Robertson’s heroics won the game for the Bluejays.
Turner said his team responded well to the loss in practice.
“We’ve been up-tempo and fast paced,” Turner said. “The kids are practicing like they would play on Saturday and we haven’t had to motivate them. Saturday we learned that people won’t just quit if we get the lead.”
That’s a good thing, since Saturday’s opponent at Bromberg Field is 15th ranked, and perennial power, Rochester, which buried Itasca 51-0 last weekend.
“They’re good and they’ll get their 100 kids and entourage off the bus when they get here,” Turner said. “But we’ve got 61 players and we told the players today that they only get to play 11 at a time just like we do.”
Last year in Rochester, the home team needed a last-second field goal to beat the Thunder 17-14 and two years ago the teams played a very competitive game at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth.
“The issue last year was that they just put out a new offensive and defensive line in the fourth quarter,” Turner said. “But we’ve shown we can beat anyone on any given day.”
Turner is proud of how far his team has come.
“Looking at film, I don’t have a problem saying we’re one of the top four teams in the state,” he said. “The offensive line is better than I thought it would be and we rushed for over 300 yards on the road last week. We just put our defense in a bad spot with turnovers. We’re also practicing at a high tempo and if we play that way and lose then I’m OK with that.”
Turner said a victory this weekend would be a huge boost for the program.
“People wouldn’t take us as lightly,” Turner said. “Some people still ask us if we have a football program because they don’t know. It would be great for confidence for the players and the coaches alike. Two years ago we had an ‘us against the world’ mentality when we started and we have a few kids with eligibility from that team that are giving us the same attitude, of playing for each other.”
Kickoff is at 2 p.m. on Saturday, with a good crowd expected.
“It’s like a homecoming,” Turner said. “There are things going on this week on campus to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the school. People are talking about the game. The campus is excited about this team.”
Forum Communications’ Worthington Daily Globe contributed to this story.