by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Zimmerman Thunder converted three touchdowns from costly Little Falls mistakes, and got 211 yards rushing from Austin May, in toppling the Flyers 26-21 Friday evening in Little Falls.
May, who carried 34 times, scored his third touchdown with 50 seconds left on a one-yard plunge for the winning points.
It helped Zimmerman’s cause that Little Falls’ outstanding back Jalan Wuschko left the game with a shoulder injury before halftime after scoring twice on long runs.
“It’s nice to steal one from a team more talented than us,” said Thunder coach Tom Kish. “We are a little down this year and we will take a win any way we can get it.”
He added that some hard hits by the defense was the key.
“The guys got the message to be more physical tonight.”
Both teams are 2-2 in the Granite Ridge and 2-3 overall.
Wuschko was featured in the St. Cloud Times this week after gaining over 900 yards in the first four games.
“That guy is a tank,” said Kish. “He’s about six foot and 220 pounds, and runs a 4.7 in the 40.”
Zimmerman forced a fumble by Wuchko on the Flyers’ first offensive play, with a hard hit by Nate Wiley knocking the ball out of his hands. It flew backwards about five yards and Austin Tretbar scooped it up at the 32 and raced to the end zone.
The Thunder forced a punt and got a big break when the snap to the punter sailed over his head. May bolted 16 yards for a touchdown and the Thunder led 14-0 with a two-point run by Noah Lunning.
Zimmerman had a chance for another score after Trent Milless intercepted a pass, but couldn’t advance, with a dropped pass foiling the drive. “We dropped about five balls tonight,” said Kish.
Instead, Little Falls started getting Wuschko sprung. He sprinted 76 yards for a touchdown, then 41 yards for another. It was 14-14 at the first stop.
Late in the half, Wuschko was buffeted by three Thunder tacklers, and stayed on the ground this time. When he got up, he had the ice pack on his shoulder and left the game. Kish said speculation was that it was a collarbone injury.
The Flyers kept that drive going anyway and scored on a three-yard run by Austin Olson just before the half for a 21-14 lead.
But Little Falls would not score in the second half. The drop-off at running back was significant with Wuschko out, Kish noted.
The Thunder pulled within 21-20 on a one-yard dive by May, capping a seven-minute drive in the third quarter. The Flyers stopped a two-point run to stay in front.
With 3:30 left in the game, the Thunder got a 32-yard pass play from Matt Dorso to Craig Steiskel, reaching the Flyer 30, but were stopped on downs.
“Fortunately for us, we had two time-outs left,” said Kish, “so they had to run plays, rather than sit on the ball.”
On a run around end by the Flyers, the ball was jarred loose again by Wiley with Tretbar again recovering, at the 30.
Dorso was just 4-for-17 and had two intercepted, but came up with another big throw to Steiskal here, this time for a 28-yard advance to the five.
May, a 5-foot-8, 180-pound junior, chugged for four yards, then dived over for the score with 50 seconds left.
The Thunder again failed on a two-point run, but the five-point lead would hold up. Little Falls hit two passes, then tried a hail mary from the 40 that missed as time ran out.
The Thunder were 1-for-4 on two-point runs. Their outstanding kicker Alex MacGregor was sidelined due to a hamstring injury that’s bothered him off and on for two years. Kish said he could have kicked conversions but they shut him down for a game rather than risk further injury.
The Thunder will host St. Cloud Cathedral at homecoming next Friday.
Zimmerman 26, Little Falls 21
Zimmerman 14 0 6 6 26
Little Falls 14 7 0 0 21
Zim —Austin Tretbar 32 fumble recovery return (run failed)
Zim — Austin May 16 run (Noah Lunning run)
LF— Jalen Wuchko 76 run (Thomas Bell kick)
LF—Wuchko 41 run (Bell kick)
LF—Austin Olson 3 run (Bell kick)
Zim — May 1 run (run failed)
Zim — May 1 run (run failed)
Rushing—May 34-211, Lunning 14-51 (team total 60-242)
Passing — Dorso 4-17-77-2
Receiving — Steiskal 2-60, Andrew Nixon 1-9, Lunning 1-8
Tackles — Tretbar 8-0-8, May 5-3-8, Lee Christopherson 5-3-8, Trent Milless 3-4-7, Nate Wiley 3-4-7, Evan Langston 3-3-6, Mack Riley 4-1-5, Ben Jenson 1-4-5
Interception — Milless
Forced fumbles — Nate Wiley 2
Fumble recovery — Tretbar 2