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Thunder trip up in Itasca's upset

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ESKO—A punter since volunteering in seventh grade, Cloquet’s Logan Crowser said the often-overlooked position requires a football player to always be on his or her toes.

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Crowser used all of his toes last Saturday, as the freshman punted a career-high seven times for 217 yards in helping Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College stay afloat in a 19-7 loss to Itasca Community College during a Minnesota College Athletic Conference football affair at Esko Stadium.

The Vikings’ victory marked the first for the Grand Rapids-based school in 14 games dating back to 2012. At 2-4 this fall, Itasca also got a forfeit win last week.

“It’s like a monkey off our backs,” said second-year Vikings Coach Tom Inforzato, drenched by their team’s water jug in celebration afterward. “We felt like there was a cloud over this team because we came so close and couldn’t get over that hump. I’m proud of my guys. They played well.”

Other than Itasca’s Josh Walls’ 1-yard touchdown plunge in a 6-0 opening half, the only productive play from the Thunder (2-3) was via the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Crowser, who punted six balls for nearly 200 yards, several of which were spotted inside the Vikings’ own 10-yard line.

“As a punter, you can feel the ball connect with your foot and hear that thud. You follow through like a golf swing, really,” Crowser said. “It’s nerve-racking — I get nervous. But tonight, I really couldn’t have asked for a better night.”

His team, meanwhile, could have. FDLTCC, now losers of two in a row, managed only 168 total yards of offense, including a dismal minus-23 on the ground. Constantly pressured, quarterback Travis Brown was just 18-for-41, while throwing two interceptions and losing one of his team’s two fumbles.

The Thunder’s Terrell Deloach provided the team’s only points when he picked off the Vikings’ Keith Dixon for an 18-yard touchdown return to make it 12-7 in the third quarter, but a 9-yard Dixon TD following Wells’ second score sealed the win for Itasca.

“They came to play and we were flat,” said FDLTCC Coach Keith Turner afterward. “We thought we were just going to come out here and roll and that wasn’t the case.”

The Thunder, a playoff team the past two years, also had 13 penalties for 100 yards, within the three-plus-hour game.

“We got a sick feeling in our stomach,” Hunter Herzog, of Moose Lake-Willow River, said. “We want to get rid of it.”

“We have the athletes, the linemen and the talent,” Turner said. “But it’ll come down to how disciplined we can be.”

Speaking of discipline, the Thunder will be down a number of players when they play their next game.

After FDLTCC and Itasca players got into a shouting match following Saturday’s game, Coach Keith Turner said he suspended eight players for bad language.

“That’s not acceptable, it’s not the way we run our program and it’s not the way we want to be represented,” Turner said.

He didn’t know what actions the Itasca coach took to discipline his players.

Pine Journal editor Jana Peterson contributed to this story.