Thunder drop section finals game to Tigers
The Nov. 2 Section 6-4A Championship between Zimmerman and Delano was truly a tale of two halves.
In the first half, the Thunder controlled the game, taking advantage of Delano mistakes to take a 7-0 halftime lead. The second half was dominated by Delano with three touchdowns by Sam Kern in a 20-7 win for the Tigers over the Thunder to send Zimmerman home just one game before a state tournament berth.
“I think in the first half we limited our mistakes,” Zimmerman head coach Tom Kish said after the game. “We had the one fumble deep in their territory and Delano made some mistakes with the interception and the false start on the one-yard line. I think that is why that first half went the way it did and why we were up 7-0.”
The first scoring drive of the Thunder started with a defensive stand by Zimmerman’s defense, forcing the Tigers into a fourth down situation where Delano took a chance and called a fake punt deep in their own territory. The Thunder seemed shocked by the play call at first but adjusted quickly, forcing a pass that was less than ideal by Delano. The wide receiver dropped the ball, giving the Thunder possession deep in Tigers territory. The Thunder ran the ball with quarterback Carter McEachern twice before Brett Howard snuck it inside the one-yard line. McEachern snuck the ball in on the next play to put the No. 1 seeded Thunder on the board. On defense, Zimmerman’s Cooper Nelson intercepted Delano quarterback Max Otto on the next possession, giving the Thunder another chance at points before the half. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t capitalize, leading by just one score but carrying the momentum into the half.
That momentum changed with one play.
“In the second half, that catch by No. 14 (Kern) was just unbelievable and that was a real punch in the gut to our guys,” Kish said. “I still think they battled but it is was one of those things where it was tough to get the momentum back after a play like that.”
The play Kish referred to was a 67-yard connection from Otto to Kern, with Kern reaching out one handed and scooping the ball in before taking the ball into the west end zone at Monticello Memorial Stadium. With one catch, the Thunder’s fans went silent while the far sidelines were full of new life. The game was tied 7-7 in the third quarter but the momentum shift made it feel like Zimmerman was suddenly fighting for any sign of being able to put together a drive.
“It just comes down to execution,” Kish said. “You got to believe and you got to execute. Our guys kept battling, kept competing but we just couldn’t get anything going. Credit to Delano. They have some excellent players and coaches."
Kern led the Tigers the rest of the game, scoring a 38-yard rushing touchdown on Delano’s next offensive possession and adding his third touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. Zimmerman had chances with a couple big plays by McEachern but each time the Tigers defense held tight enough to end Zimmerman’s drive with zero points. McEachern’s first-half quarterback sneak was the only score for the Thunder who hoped the game would have ended the same way it did the first time these two teams played in week one of the season. In that game, it was the Thunder with the second half comeback to secure win No. 1 of the season.
Zimmerman graduates 14 players off this season’s roster in June and will bring back another strong team in 2019. On offense, the Thunder started eight underclassmen and on defense, they added another six, a rarity for high school football
“We have some seniors who have done a lot for us and for this program,” Kish said. “It was great to see them have success because they didn’t have a lot of success when they were going through the youth ranks. We are really going to miss those guys because a lot of them really stepped up.”
Delano advances to the MSHSL Class AAAA State Tournament where the Tigers will take on SMB, a co-op team that includes Minnehaha Academy, Hope Academy, St. Paul Academy and Summit School and Blake School. SMB is undefeated on the season and led by quarterback Jalen Suggs who has offers at many D-1 programs in both basketball and football. The game will take place at St. Cloud State University on Nov. 9. The game kicks off at 7 p.m.
Zimmerman defense comes up huge in semifinal win over Becker
Behind a strong defensive performance, the No. 1-seeded Zimmerman Thunder took out Becker by a score of 15-13 on a rainy night in the Section 6-4A semifinals on Oct. 27 at Zimmerman High School.
With 32 seconds remaining, Becker, who was the No. 4 seed in the section, had one final opportunity to pull off an upset, but the Thunder defense came through in another big moment to force a turnover on downs and send the Thunder to the section finals.
The defense was stout throughout the game, only allowing one score in the game on a 5-yard rush by Bulldog quarterback Josh Fobbe with 4:18 left in the game. Other than that, the Thunder forced multiple punts and turnovers, but their biggest stop came on Becker's first possession of the second half.
Following a 27-yard hook and ladder play that set up a 1st & goal for the Bulldogs at the Thunder 7-yard line, Zimmerman held Becker to only one more yard on the next four plays capped off by a Carter McEachern deflected pass in the end zone to force a turnover on downs -- a deflating blow for Becker at the time and ended up being a key stop in a 2-point ball game.
The Thunder's game-winning score came on a 2-yard quarterback keeper by McEachern about 8:30 into the first quarter, but the key play came on the 2-point conversion where McEachern connected with Tim Vorobyev on a swing pass to make it a two-possession game. The Thunder held on to a 15-6 lead until Fobbe scored late in the fourth quarter, so the 2-point conversion ended up being the deciding factor.
Zimmerman's offense struggled mightily after scoring all 15 points in the first quarter, but Thunder head coach Tom Kish said that he was pleased to see the offense hang onto the football on a rainy night and not give Becker great field position after opening the game with a fumble on their first possession.
Despite that early fumble, the defense forced a three-and-out, while the special teams forced a poor, 2-yard punt that resulted in Zimmerman taking over at the Becker 14-yard line. Moments later, running back Landon Berroa from 11 yards out with Vorobyev adding the extra point, giving the Thunder an early 7-0 lead.
Becker's other touchdown came on an 80-yard kick return by Isaac Koop following Berroa's score, but the Thunder came back with a big return by Kyle Briggs to the 50-yard line, setting up the game-winning touchdown drive.
Offensively, McEachern completed three of four passes for 112 yards, while adding 60 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Brett Howard led the team with 75 yards on 15 carries, while Berroa rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown after missing the team's final two games of the regular season.
Up next, Zimmerman (6-3) plays Delano (6-3) in the section final on Nov. 2 at Monticello High School at 7:30 p.m. The Thunder defeated Delano in the first game of the season, 37-19, and will look to defeat them again to earn their first section title and advance to their first state tournament in program history.
Thunder drop final game of regular season, still secure No. 1 seed in section
The Thunder’s regular season came to end at 5-3 following a 19-10 road loss to Dassel-Cokato on Oct. 17.
Zimmerman jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, which they would hold on to until halftime, with scores coming on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Carter McEachern to Tim Vorobyev and a 37-yard field goal by Vorobyev.
But, in the second half, the game started to turn in Dassel-Cokato’s favor after they scored two touchdowns in the first six minutes of the third quarter, capitalizing on a bad snap on a Zimmerman punt to score the second touchdown from the Thunder 7-yard line.
With a 13-10 lead, Dassel-Cokato added one more score in the fourth quarter, while the defense remained stout, holding on to a 19-10 win.
McEachern went 9 of 20 for 89 yards with one touchdown and interception, while Vorobyev was the team's leading rusher with 66 yards. Ben Kuter had a team-high 46 receiving yards on three catches. Defensively, Jeg Schottenbauer had an interception, while Hunter Nelson had a team-high two sacks. McEachern and Cooper Nelson led the team with eight tackles apiece.
As a result of the loss, the Thunder prepare for the postseason and head coach Tom Kish is optimistic the team will contend for a Section 6-4A title after receiving the No. 1 seed.
“Our section should be pretty wide open with four teams having the ability to win it,” Kish said. “We feel we definitely have an opportunity to compete for and win a section championship.”
Since the Thunder received the No. 1 seed, they will have a first round bye, meaning they’ll play their first section game at home on Oct. 27 against either No. 4 Becker or No. 5 Foley.
Thunder lose defensive battle to Albany
Zimmerman stepped into their biggest game of the season against Albany on Oct. 5, hoping to come away with a victory in their final home game and keep themselves in the running for another district title.
Unfortunately, the Huskies had other plans.
In a defensive battle, Albany’s 14 first half points was all that was needed for the road team to walk away with a 14-6 hard-fought victory over the Thunder.
“Obviously, not the result we wanted,” Thunder head coach Tom Kish said. “However, I am extremely proud of how our guys battled throughout the game, which gave us an opportunity to tie it up at the end.”
The Huskies got off to a quick start, scoring their first points on a safety in the first quarter. From there, Albany quarterback A. Seller hit C. Gaebel for a 36-yard touchdown pass before C. Kotzer ran in a 20-yard score to secure a 14-0 halftime lead for the Huskies.
Despite a two-possession halftime deficit, Zimmerman had their chances in the second half, as the Thunder defense held Albany to only 60 yards of total offense and zero points.
The only problem is that the Huskies defense was even better, holding the Thunder offense to a season-low 152 yards and 6 points throughout the game. Zimmerman’s lone touchdown came on a 5-yard run by Tim Vorobyev in the third quarter, but other than that, the Thunder offense just couldn’t break through against one of the top defenses in Class 4A.
“It really was a combination of us struggling to execute and Albany's defense being very good,” Kish said. “They had only allowed four touchdowns all season coming into the game, so we knew we were playing against an outstanding defense. If we would have executed better, we would have scored enough points to win.”
Thunder quarterback Carter McEachern was held to 2 of 8 passing for 30 yards, while Vorobyev led the team with 75 rushing yards on 14 carries. Jeg Schottenbauer had one catch for 23 yards.
Defensively, McEachern had an interception, while Vorobyev forced a fumble in an impressive showing for the unit. Vorobyev also had a team-high 13 tackles, while Brett Howard, Cade Bondus and Tucker Budreau had double-digit tackle totals of 11, 11 and 10, respectively.
Bondus and Budreau led a defensive line rotation that was dominant up front.
“The play out of our defensive line was tremendous,” Kish said when asked what was the key to the defense’s success. “The five guys we rotate in on our line played amazing and it will be something we need to build off of.”
The game also marked Senior Night, honoring a class of 14 seniors that have stepped up in a big way this season.
“It is great seeing our seniors have success this season,” Kish said. “Throughout youth football and into the 9th grade and JV levels, wins were few and far in between for the group. They have stepped up and played at a higher level then I could have imagined coming into the year.”
With the loss, Zimmerman is no longer in contention for their third straight district title, as Albany and New London-Spicer, who gave the Thunder their first loss on Sept. 14, will face off for sole possession or a share of the district title in the final game of the season. Both teams are now 4-0 in district play heading into their final two games, while the Thunder dropped to 3-2 in the district and 4-2 overall.
Although it was disappointing to be eliminated from district contention, Kish believes a tight loss like this can benefit the team when the games matter most.
“Sometimes, especially with a young team, you have to play in a really close, competitive game and lose before you can win a tight one,” he said. “I expect to be in this situation again come playoff time and believe the outcome will be different.”
Up next, the Thunder play their first of two road games to end the season against St. Cloud Cathedral on Oct. 8.
Zimmerman blows out Little Falls.
The Thunder built on a dominating 30-6 homecoming victory last week with a 52-6 win over Little Falls on the road.
The Thunder ran for 403 yards on 33 carries, resulting in seven touchdowns. Brett Howard led the way with 114 yards and two touchdowns, while Ben Kuter, Carter McEachern and Elijah Stellmach also had big days on the ground with 96, 73 and 66 yards, respectively. McEachern, Stellmach and Cole Knutson had one touchdown apiece, while Tim Vorobyev had two. Vorobyev added a field goal from 28 yards out and seven extra points.
McEachern went 4 of 8 passing for 48 yards, with Jeg Schottenbauer leading the way with 41 yards receiving.
Up next, Zimmerman (4-1) returns home for a conference showdown with Albany on Oct. 5. They are also 4-1 on the season.
Zimmerman dominates Milaca for homecoming win
Following a tough 49-13 road loss to New London-Spicer last week, the Thunder responded with a 30-6 homecoming victory over Milaca Friday night.
Tim Vorobyev got the scoring started with a 3-yard run in the first quarter. While Milaca responded with a touchdown drive of their own in the quarter, it was all Thunder from there, as they rattled off three touchdowns and a field goal in the second and third quarters for a 30-6 win.
On top of his rushing touchdown, Vorobyev made a 30-yard field goal in the second quarter, while quarterback Carter McEachern added one more score in the quarter on a 2-yard run.
Third quarter touchdowns were scored by Landon Berroa, who led the team with 96 rushing yards, and Cole Knutson. Berroa's touchdown was a 75-yard run, while Knutson's was from 3 yards out.
McEachern went 8 of 11 for 101 yards passing, while adding 34 yards on the ground. Vorobyev finished the day with 51 rushing yards, while Jeg Schottenbauer caught two balls for 41 yards.
Up next, Zimmerman plays at Little Falls. Game time is set for 7 p.m. on Sept. 28.
Thunder blown out by New London-Spicer
After a 2-0 start that saw the Thunder outscore their opponents 69-19, Zimmerman struggled on both sides of the ball in their first road game against New London-Spicer, resulting in a 49-13 loss.
New London-Spicer scored five touchdowns before Zimmerman quarterback Carter McEachern hit Jake Pool with a 5-yard touchdown pass at the end of the second quarter.
With a 35-7 halftime lead, New London-Spicer scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter. From there, Thunder running back Landon Berroa recorded the only score the rest of the way on a 9-yard run.
McEachern finished the game 9 of 16 for 100 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Berroa led the team with 47 rushing yards on eight carries, while Jeg Schottenbauer had three catches for 77 yards.
Up next, Zimmerman returns home to play Milaca on Sept. 21.
Zimmerman shocks No. 1 ranked Delano in season opener
Returning only two starters plus playing Northstar Football News’ No. 1-ranked team in Class 4A football equated to the Zimmerman Thunder coming into their house as the underdog in the first game of the season.
But, that didn’t faze the Thunder. It just lit a fire under them to prove the entire state wrong.
“They have been fired up to start the season for a long time. Many of the players had a big chip on their shoulder,” Zimmerman head coach Tom Kish said about being the underdog in their season opener against Delano on Aug. 30.
On top of that, they were tired of hearing this game could be the start of a rebuilding year, adding more fuel to the fire.
“They have had to listen to others tell them we were not going to be very good this fall due to all the seniors we lost from last season's team,” Kish added.
So, the two-time defending East Central District Champions bottled all of the negative energy surrounding them and turned it into a positive result.
Despite trailing 13-8 at halftime and 19-16 after three quarters, the Thunder scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to secure a lopsided 37-19 upset victory over Delano to start the season.
“It is always nice to get positive momentum rolling for the season with an opening game victory,” Kish said. “It was fun to be the underdog. Our guys really embraced the role playing with a nothing to lose attitude.”
Junior quarterback and safety Carter McEachern got the fourth quarter onslaught started with an interception before scoring from one yard out to give Zimmerman a 23-19 lead.
From there, the Thunder didn’t look back as they held Delano scoreless the rest of the way, adding two more touchdowns on a six-yard scamper by McEachern and 55-yard gallop by Landon Berroa.
“We made a couple minor adjustments on defense and offensively, we just cleaned up the execution of a play or two,” Kish said about what adjustments were made at halftime. “Other than that, the message was just continue to battle and play your tail off and good things will eventually happen.”
Zimmerman featured 10 new starters on offense and nine on defense, but Kish was pleased with what he saw from his inexperienced squad, noting they handled multiple situations with poise.
As a result, they were able to respond to three deficits and keep the game close through three quarters before running away with it in the end.
“I just was really impressed with how our guys battled all game long,” Kish said. “We had a couple turnovers in the first half deep in our territory, along with giving up the first touchdown of the game. They handled all those situations really well. Our team simply moved on to the next play and continued to play with energy and grit.”
McEachern stood out in his debut as starting quarterback after playing wide receiver in each of the past two seasons with the varsity squad.
The 6-foot-5 junior captain went 6 of 15 for 58 yards, while running the ball 15 times for 49 yards and two touchdowns.
“We were really happy, but at the same time not surprised,” Kish said about McEachern’s first start in place of 2018 graduate Tommy Laabs at quarterback. “He is a great football player who is becoming a heck of a leader for us.”
McEachern received a lot of help from his teammates in the backfield, as well as the linemen up front that paved the way for 260 yards on the ground.
Senior Berroa led the team with 95 yards and a touchdown, while juniors Tim Vorobyev and Brett Howard added 62 and 46 yards, respectively. Senior Ben Kuter rounded out the rushing attack with eight yards.
Howard, who is also a captain alongside McEachern, Tucker Budreau and John Steinke, scored the Thunder’s first touchdown of the season on an 11-yard run in the second quarter and added one more score to give Zimmerman an early 16-13 lead in the second half.
With the Thunder offense doing their part, the defense took care of business against an explosive offense that finished fourth in rushing and eleventh in passing in Class 4A last season.
Kish said it was an all-around good day for both sides of the football.
“Both sides of the ball really played well as units. Each player didn't try to do too much, just focused on doing their job really well,” he said.
While a huge, upset victory over Delano was a great way to start the season, Kish doesn’t want the team to get too ahead of themselves.
Sure, they may have put themselves back on the map to many outside observers, but there’s still seven more regular season games to be played and the goal is to take things week-by-week in order to accomplish something bigger down the road.
“We break up the season into eight separate seasons. Season one is over and we are now moving on to season two and are simply going to focus on getting ourselves better so we have a chance to go 1-0 in season two,” Kish said. “We don't talk big picture with our team as that is not something that is important to us right now.”
Up next, the Thunder stay at home to play their first district game against Foley. Game time is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 7.
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2018 Varsity Schedule