By Jon Becker, FDLTCC Student and Thunder Football Team Statistician
Thunder battle but lose playoff game
The Thunder Football team traveled to Rochester on Saturday, October 24, to face-off against the undefeated and top-seeded Rochester Community and Technical College Yellow Jackets in the first round of the 2015 Minnesota College Athletic Conference playoffs. The Thunder would head into the game trying to forget their last meeting earlier in the season which Rochester won convincingly.
Tremendous defensive play for both teams was the story of the first half. Neither team would score until late in the first quarter. RCTC capitalized on a Thunder fumble in their own zone which led to a 19-yard field goal by kicker Matt Gulland, putting the Yellow Jackets up 3-0 with two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
It wouldn’t take long for the Thunder to answer. On their next drive with 0:39 left in the first quarter, backup quarterback Jarred White, in for injured quarterback Kendarian Carter who broke his hand earlier in the first quarter, found running back Te’Vaughn Hurse wide open in the backfield. Hurse, with plenty of running room, burst into the open field beating every defender down the sidelines for a 72-yard touchdown. The extra point attempt was no good. The first quarter would end with the Thunder leading 6-3.
The second quarter wouldn’t yield any scoring with both teams missing field goal opportunities. The Thunder defense played extremely well after being put in multiple short field positions.
Thunder defensive back Malik Holland would have the biggest defensive play of the half. As the Yellow Jackets were marching down the field looking to take back the lead just before the first half ended, RCTC quarterback Nick Rooney found wide receiver Terrance Bowers on a slant route near the Thunder eleven yard line. Holland tracked down Bowers and punched the ball out from behind. The ball was scooped up by Thunder defensive back Sam Johnson. Johnson would return the fumble 65 yards before being hauled down by a swarm of Yellow Jackets near the RCTC fifteen yard line with 0:37 left in the half.
The Thunder, with limited time, attempted a field goal but missed as time expired. The Thunder held their 6-3 lead against the #2 ranked team in the country as the playoff game headed into the halftime break.
The third quarter was the turning point in the game. RCTC found their rhythm, capping off a 98-yard touchdown drive to start the second half. Rooney would connect with wide receiver Bowers in the end zone for a 5 yard touchdown pass. The extra point attempt was good, giving the Jackets back the lead 10-6 and they wouldn’t look back.
The Thunder offense would struggle in the second half. RCTC defensive back Lakye Alston snared two interceptions in the third quarter. The turnovers would ultimately lead to more Yellow Jacket points. RCTC quarterback Rooney would hook up with wide receiver Delfontay Powell for a 7-yard touchdown pass.
As the third quarter ended, RCTC running back Montrel Moore dashed into the end zone for a 40-yard scamper as the quarter came to a close. Extra point attempt was good, putting the Yellow Jackets up 23-6 after three quarters of play.
The Yellow Jackets would kick-off to the Thunder to start the fourth quarter. Te’Vaughn Hurse was back to receive the kick looking to give his team a spark for a potential comeback. Hurse would do just that. Hurse received the ball on the 2-yard line and wouldn’t stop until he was in the end zone 98 yards later. The Thunder attempted a 2-point conversion but would come up short with the score 23-12.
Another interception thrown by Thunder quarterback White gave RCTC terrific field position. Rooney would make quick work of the short field, finding wide receiver Powell again in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown pass. Extra point attempt was good to increase the score to 30-12 and that’s where this one would stay.
The Thunder ended their 2015 season with 4 wins and 5 losses and a third consecutive trip to postseason playoffs. Te’Vaughn Hurse, Keonte Connelly and Damon Barnes earned individual recognition as MCAC Eastern Division Player of the Week honors during the season.