The Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College Thunder Football team opened their 2019 season with a 36-3 victory over Minnesota State-Fergus Falls at NBC Stadium in Superior on Saturday, August 24. The impressive win also marked the debut of new Thunder Head Coach Robert Smith.
“I was very pleased with the disciplined play of the team and keeping mental mistakes to a minimum and avoiding costly penalties,” said Thunder Head Coach Robert Smith. “One of our goals coming out of training camp was to be great at all of the things it doesn’t take talent to be good at. That was a positive outcome in this first game of the season.”
The Thunder came out solid defensively, forcing a three-and-out possession deep in Minnesota State’s territory to get good field position on their opponent’s 25-yard line. The Thunder offense was unable to get a first down on their first possession but settled for a 25-yard field goal by Michael Hall to take a quick lead 3-0 in the first quarter.
Minnesota State tied the score 3-3 on their first possession of the second quarter after the Thunder fumbled a punt return, turning over the ball in the red zone.
Coach Smith switched quarterbacks in the second quarter and on the Thunder’s second possession, quarterback Anthony Boyd connected with wide receiver Eric Grant on a 45-yard touchdown pass that opened up the game. The Thunder led 10-3 at the half.
“Eric Grant gave us a spark with the touchdown catch in the second quarter, he started on defense at cornerback, but we know he can catch the ball and run,” said Smith. “That worked out well for us.”
The Thunder received the second half kickoff and drove 65 yards for another touchdown when Thunder running back Quri Hickman ran 20 yards to reach the end zone and build a 17-3 lead. Thunder quarterback Danny Jackson then hit wide receiver Mason Klinger on a corner route for the Thunder’s third touchdown, and placekicker Michael Hall hit a 35-yard field goal to round out the third quarter scoring at 27-3. Fourth quarter scoring included a two-yard run by running back Justice Bice and a safety by the Thunder defense. The Thunder scored 33 consecutive points after the 3-3 tie earlier in the game.
The Thunder defense was stingy, holding Minnesota State to just 97 total yards, consisting of 11 passing yards and 86 rushing yards. The defense recorded 13 sacks, led by defensive end Jhanviey Nichols who had five solo sacks. Linebacker DJ Buchanan added 10 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble. Defensive end Rayshad Roddy recovered a fumble and had seven tackles and one sack.
“Overall the team played well, we worked through some first game jitters early on but even though it was close we didn’t get down on ourselves,” said Smith. “Once we got things rolling, the whole team was fired up and working together.”
The Thunder football team is busy preparing for their next game against conference powerhouse North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, ND, next Saturday.
“We don’t have any film to study on them because they did not play this past week,” said Smith about his team’s next opponent. “We have a good idea of their style of play so we can focus on what we know about them during practice. We’ll also work on getting a few of our players recovered from injuries to have some additional depth heading into our next game.”
Kickoff against North Dakota State College of Science is set for 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 31, when the Thunder make their first road trip of the season to Wahpeton, ND.
The full box score with individual statistics from the Thunder’s 36-3 victory over Minnesota State Fergus Falls is available on the Minnesota College Athletic Conference web page here.