by Eric Oslund
Homecoming games can be very emotional for teams, especially ones that are filled with seniors - much like the Zimmerman Thunder.
It’s the last homecoming of their high school careers, which can often lead to a lot of distractions. Whether it’s the activities going on in school, having fun with friends outside of class, or just being overwhelmed with emotions thinking about playing in their last homecoming game, it can just be hard to focus.
But that’s not how this team operates. Everyday they come to practice and focus on improving themselves. They don’t care who their opponent is, what game they’re playing in, or anything like that. All they tend to do is focus on one another.
“We’re just really trying to take it day by day,” head coach Tom Kish said. “Have a great day of practice, making sure we’re preparing for our opponents, preparing ourselves and put forward good days of preparation in and Friday will take care of itself. That’s really what we’ve been preaching and focusing, and trying to get better each day.”
So when this team took to the field on Sept. 29, running out under those Friday night lights in front of their family, friends, and all the Thunder faithful, no one was surprised to see the result.
They jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first half, working behind a balanced offensive attack and a smothering defense, eventually going on to win the game 38-14 to improve to 5-0 on the season.
It’s the best start to the season that the Thunder have had since 2011, and, according to their head coach, there are two real reasons for it. The first is their day-by-day mentality of viewing each week as though they have a 0-0 record. The second is that group of seniors who continue to lead the way for everyone else on the team.
“We’ve got great leadership and they understand the message, take the message and are really living it out,” Kish praised. “Hats off to them, they’re making my job really easy this year.
“It’s the seniors as a group. They’re really doing a nice job of kind of guiding the ship and steering in the right direction, and our younger guys are following suit. That’s the great thing, that when the seniors are gone they will have really left a legacy of how to do it the right way.”
Now, heading into the sixth week of the season, these seniors have the chance to do something special. They can become the first Thunder team in the Coach Kish era to start the season 6-0, and also claim their subdistrict title in the process.
Albany is the only other undefeated team in the East Central-North district, so a win by the Thunder will secure the title. But, if you ask any of the players on the team, you likely won’t hear them talking about it.
Instead, they’ll just be focused on improving their craft, doing the little things right, and taking everything one day at a time.
“We’re not really going to focus on that, but this is a big week for us,” Kish said after his team improved to 5-0. “It’s going to be a big one for us with a little extra focus and a little extra intensity this week. We’ve got an opportunity to do something special this week.”