by Eric Oslund
There was a lot on the line for the Zimmerman Thunder football team as they made the hour-long bus ride west towards Albany on Friday, Oct. 6.
They were currently undefeated, boasting a 5-0 record on the season, and had a chance to improve to 6-0 for the first time in program history. And, more importantly, they had a chance to claim at least a share of the East Central North District Title.
Albany was the only other team that was undefeated in their district, so it came down to this, but the Thunder knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
“We knew that tonight was going to be a big test for us,” Zimmerman head coach Tom Kish said. “Going into a program that’s had a lot of rich history of great football, probably one of the most storied programs in central Minnesota, to go there on their homecoming and defeat them was going to take a great effort…”
The game could not have started any better for the Thunder, as sophomore Carter McEachern returned the opening kickoff for a 66-yard touchdown to give his team a 7-0 lead after a successful point-after attempt.
Unfortunately for the Thunder, the rest of the first quarter would belong to Albany. They were able to drive down the length of the field and score on a 1-yard touchdown run, and then punch in a 2-point conversion to take an 8-7 lead.
Their defense then continued to stifle the Thunder, and their special teams was able to block a punt and return it 20 yards for a touchdown to give them a 14-7 lead.
Just like that the Thunder were trailing, which is not something they have gotten used to as it was the first time all season they had fallen behind.
“There was definitely not any panic on the sidelines. Our guys were like, ‘We’ve got to go get it back,’” Kish began, recalling the moment Albany scored on the blocked punt. “That’s the biggest thing. I know a lot of teams talk about moving forward and controlling what you can control, but our guys do a great job of living that.”
So the offense took to the field and just looked to do what they have been doing all season, move down the field with a balanced attack and put seven points on the board. And, sure enough, that’s what they were able to do as Dylan Larrabee finished things off with a 3-yard touchdown run.
Then it was time for the defense to step up, and they too were ready to rise to the occasion, but not just on that drive. The Zimmerman defenders dug in their heels and did not let Albany find the end zone for the remainder of the game, while the offense would go on to score three more times – two touchdowns and a field goal – to give them a 31-14 win.
It improved them to 6-0 for the first time ever, and also secured them at least a share of their district tile for the second straight year.
“That’s something that is a lot more important to us than the record,” Kish said of the league championship. “We’re not too concerned about the record, but anytime you win a championship it’s pretty special.”
Up next, the Thunder will look to grab sole possession of that title when they host St. Cloud Cathedral (2-4) on Friday, Oct. 13.