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Thunder are playing well but wins elusive

FDLTCC Thunder running back Darion Griner leaps over a Mesabi Range tackler as well as teammate Jordan Miller during a first quarter run on Saturday at Bromberg Field. Dave Harwig/ 1 / 2
FDLTCC Thunder wide receiver Miles Kelly runs way from a Mesabi Range tackler during Saturday afternoon's football game at Bromberg Field. Dave Harwig/ 2 / 2

Part of the frustration of the game of football is in having little to show for some nights where you play well but don’t win.

That’s the situation facing the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College football team after four weeks of play — including a 22-10 loss last Saturday to Mesabi Range at Cloquet’s Bromberg Field, their first home game in Cloquet this season.

“We were in the red zone four times in that game and we scored once, and we fumbled on the 1-yard line once,” coach Terry Fawcett said. “We had the ball in position to do things with it and couldn’t get in the end zone.”

The Thunder were also hampered by a pair of fumbled kicks, which turned the ball over to Mesabi Range.

“It was a night where we didn’t execute certain parts of the game and it helped beat us,” Fawcett said.

The Thunder boast the Minnesota College Athletic Conference’s second-leading rusher in Darion Griner, with 386 yards on an Eastern Division-leading 85 carries, and the fourth leading receiver in Miles Kelly.

Defensively, the team is third in its division in total yardage allowed and fourth in scoring defense.

But the problems in the red zone have overshadowed all the individual and team numbers. Despite playing in a spread offense, the Thunder have a division-low 440 yards passing and have scored 76 points, fifth in their half of the league.

Fawcett is optimistic that with continued strong defensive play, the offense will come around and the team can succeed.

“We’ve had some inconsistent play at quarterback from time to time but these players work very hard; we’re having good practices and these things are fixable,” he added.

But things don’t get easier for the Thunder, who have only one home game remaining in their last four — they head to Brainerd this weekend to face Central Lakes, ranked second in the state.

Central Lakes (4-0) is an offensive powerhouse which last year boasted running back Carlton Djam, now plying his trade at the University of Minnesota.

“We do seem to play them tough,” Fawcett said of Central Lakes, noting that their 2015 team, which scored an average of 62 points per game, only led Fond du Lac 7-0 at halftime.

“We had fog come in at halftime and they were trying to pass the ball on us and they couldn’t do it,” Fawcett said. “Then they put it on the ground, kept our defense on the field for 40 minutes and they beat us.”

Fawcett is hoping that Saturday’s game can help turn around his team’s season. “We seem to play well against Central Lakes almost every year that I’ve been here and really, we’ve played only one bad half of football on defense all season (against North Dakota State College of Science, the top-ranked team in the league).”

Still, putting it all together has proven an elusive target for the Thunder.

“We have work to do but again, the attitudes I’m seeing are great, the players aren’t giving up and they’re continuing to work hard,” Fawcett said.