Football: Safety helps Thunder (4-0) squeeze past Mora 8-7

Noah Lunning evaded Mora's Adam Burgess and scored the Thunder's lone touchdown on a 12-yard run. (Photo by Erik Jacobson)

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Just one scoring drive was all the unbeaten Zimmerman Thunder could muster against the Mora Mustangs on Friday evening.

But that was enough as Noah Lunning’s 11-yard touchdown run and Ethan Lunning’s end-zone tackle for a safety lifted the Thunder to an 8-7 homecoming victory over the Mora Mustangs.

“Mora has a real solid defensive team, they are well coached, and they have nice athletes on both side of the ball,” said Zimmerman coach Tom Kish.

Derek Graves of Mora made his second interception of the night and dashed to the end zone but it was ruled he stepped out o bounds. (Photo by Erik Jacobson)

That’s why the Thunder managed only 112 yards rushing, along with 117 yards passing tempered by three interceptions, and got no quarterback sacks after posting eight of them the week before.

“We knocked on the door a few times in the first half but we couldn’t get the ball in the end zone,” said Kish. “Mora had a tough time moving the ball in the second half and so did we. We had one good drive in the second half and that ended up being all we needed.”

The Thunder had broken into the state AP rankings at No. 9 — a first in the nine-year history of the program — on Tuesday, and probably earned at least another week on the list, beating a Mora (2-2) team good enough to be in the “others receiving votes” category.

Zimmerman (4-0) was stopped at the two-yard line on its first drive, but took a 2-0 lead after punter Luke Schmit pinned Mora on its one-yard line, with Troy Gabrielson downing the ball. Ethan Lunning, at linebacker, busted through to drop John Mantel two yards behind the goal line when the Mustangs tried to cross them up with a counter play.

“Ethan sniffed it out. That was kind of a strange play to run from the goal line,” said Kish.

Mora grabbed a 7-2 lead a minute before halftime as Derek Graves picked off a Lunning pass near midfield and the Mustangs completed a long pass that reached the one-yard line, with Josh Mantel punching in for the TD.

Two interceptions in the first half, by Ethan and Caleb Lunning, helped keep the Thunder close.

Zimmerman marched 60 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. Noah Lunning, a sophomore, got his first varsity touchdown on a 12-yard scamper around right end with fullback Brandon Smith throwing a key block. The Thunder didn’t add the conversion as Ethan Lunning, the holder, dropped the snap.

Mora appeared to regain lead when Graces intercepted another pass and dashed down the sidelines for an apparent touchdown in the fourth quarter, but officials ruled he stepped out of bounds at the 25 avoiding a tackler.

Zimmerman linebacker Mitch Robinson got behind the Mora line and dropped quarterback Josh Chaney for a loss. (Photo by Erik Jacobson)

From there, the Thunder defense held for four plays.

Mora thwarted Zimmerman’s attempt to run out the clock, but after the punt, the Thunder held them to four-and-out again to clinch the win.

Thunder coach Tom Kish huddled with players late in the game. (Photo by Erik Jacobson)

Ethan Lunning hit eight of 17 passes for 117 yards while Caleb Lunning was top rusher with just 34 in 11 carries.

The Thunder won despite no takeaways, no sacks and just two tackles-for-loss. What the Thunder did was well was stuff plays. They held Mora to 63 rushing yards and 85 passing yards, just 148 total.

Zimmerman will play at Milaca next week.


Zimmerman 8, Mora 7

Zimmerman ….. 2  0  6  0 — 8

Mora ……………  0  7  0  0 — 7

Scoring plays

Zim  – Safety by Ethan Lunning

Mora – Josh Mantel 1 run (Jake Lindberg kick)

Zim – Noah Lunning 11 run (kick failed)


Zimmerman leaders

Passing (cmp-att-yrd-int) – E.Lunning 8-17-117-3

Rushing – E. Lunning 5-22, Caleb Lunning 11-34, N. Lunning 3-10, Brandon Smith 3-3,  Jeff Mueller 3-9, Collin Ashley 6-17, Evan Bye 2-17

Receiving – Luke Schmit 2-18, Ashley 3-38, C. Lunning 3-41

Tackles – Tony Obinger 9, Mitch Robinson 8, Mueller 8, E. Lunning 5, Jake Antolak 5, Schmit 4

Tackles for loss – E. Lunning 1, Obinger 1

Interceptions – E. Lunning, C. Lunning


Granite Ridge Conference


Zimmerman …………….. 3-0   4-0

St. Cloud Cathedral ….. 3-0   4-0

Foley ………………………. 1-1  3-1

Mora ……………………….. 1-1  2-2

Milaca ……………………… 1-2  1-3

Little Falls ………………… 0-2   0-4

Princeton ………………….. 0-3  0-4


Results Friday

Zimmerman 8, Mora 7

St. Cloud Cathedral 20, Princeton 6

Foley 35, Milaca 13

Becker 31, Little Falls 17


Games next Friday

Zimmerman at Milaca

St. Cloud Cathedral at Mora

Foley at Little Falls

Big Lake at Princeton