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Thunder runs out of steam against Central Lakes

FDLTCC Thunder linebacker Keonte Connelly tackles Jake Faber of Central Lakes College during Saturday’s 27-6 Thunder loss in Cloquet. Jamie Lund/ 1 / 2
Thunder wide receiver Sam Johnson leaps into the air to catch a pass in the last minutes of the second quarter of Saturday’s game against Central Lakes College. Jamie Lund/ 2 / 2

For three quarters, the Fond du Lac Thunder football team hung right with a big and physical Central Lakes team at Rol Bromberg Field in Cloquet on Saturday.

Then, the roof fell in.

Trailing 7-6 midway through the third quarter, key injuries and a lack of depth gave the visitors a leg up, and the eventual 27-6 final score dropped the Thunder to 3-2 overall.

“We played well for about three quarters,” coach Keith Turner said, “but we ended up running out of gas and we had a couple of players get hurt who were hard to replace.”

Defensive end Gavin Leach (Zebulon, N.C.) went out with a dislocated elbow in the third quarter which Turner described as one of the worst he had ever seen, and offensive tackle Victor Rollins (Stone Mountain, Ga.) broke a small bone in his foot. Both players are likely lost for the season.

“I was in the emergency room with the players until 11 o’clock after the game,” Turner said. “They’re both going to still be part of our team, but it will have to be in a different capacity now.”

The Thunder got a 48-yard touchdown run in the third quarter from Te’Vaughan Hurse (Fort Wayne, Ind.) on a simple toss sweep that made the score 7-6 but the extra point attempt was blocked.

“We made mistakes,” Turner said. “On that extra point, guys didn’t step down hard and we got a kick blocked. I think physically we were as good as [Central Lakes], but mentally they were better.”

The Thunder also had three drives stall out on downs inside the Central Lakes 20-yard line in the first half.

“If we get points on any of those drives, it’s tied at half instead of 7-0,” Turner said. “We felt pretty darn good at half because we weren’t playing well offensively and we held them to seven points.”

But in the end, superior depth told the tale for Central Lakes.

“We aren’t that deep,” Turner said. “We just aren’t there with them (Central Lakes) in depth yet. They have 12-13 guys on their offensive line and they rotate 10 kids in the defensive line. We can’t do that, and we won’t do that because it isn’t our philosophy.”

The Thunder squad will be limited to between 55 and 65 players for a variety of reasons and Turner has no plans to change that.

“That’s what we can deal with as a staff,” Turner said. “Until we grow and gain more facilities, that’s where we will be.”

That said, the Thunder held Central Lakes to half its season scoring average.

“They score 60 a game and we held them to 27, so our defense knows they did a [great] job,” Turner said. “Te’Vaughan ran for over 100 yards and we threw for over 200 yards, but most of it was between the 20-yard lines.”

Next up for the Thunder is their ultimate test — Rochester, away.

“Attitude-wise, we can’t say enough about these kids,” Turner said. “We practiced at 6 a.m. today and everyone was there and on time. They are buying into what we are doing.”

After Rochester, the team plays its final two games of the regular season in Superior, against Itasca and Minnesota West.

“We can’t be more than a No. 2 seed now, but that’s still pretty good,” Turner said. “We are going to be in the playoffs and we are going to make a lot of noise.”