RECAP OF THUNDER'S INAUGURAL SEASON
As we come to the end of the Thunder’s first regular-season, we look back on a great year of play and team bonding that ultimately led this team to seven wins and a first-round bye in the playoffs. The Thunder came into the year with high hopes and accomplished many goals they had set early on.
After an impressive season, the Thunder finished fourth in the power rankings directly behind their division rivals - the Southwest Florida Gladiators. Some of the greatest feats this season include the Thunder beating the Gladiators in week three and the Dade County Raiders in week nine.
Their success can be credited to the powerhouse defense built by the coaching staff and recruiters. Defensive lineman Dakota Shelhamer led the league in sacks, and defensive backs Henry Hill and Samuel Stunner led in interceptions.
The Thunder faced numerous challenges coming into the league. A primary example was losing their previous head coach Rey Riveros, so former defensive line coach, Bob Henriquez, stepped up to take the position early in the pre-season. This was an instrumental act of leadership by Henriquez, and he excelled in the position.
When asked how he felt about the team’s success, Henriquez stated,
“The defense as a whole has been the driving force behind the success. They performed consistently well through injury and diversity. They gave us a chance to win even when they’ve been put in bad situations.”
Henriquez also made a note to commend the special team on their success,
“The special team has been excellent as well. At times they have flipped the field and done a great job putting our defense in a good spot.”
Thunder’s punter Brad Coyle also had great things to say about the special team's performance as he praised the punt team and kicker Eddie Witkowski.
Offensively, star quarterback Brian Waters can be thanked for his tremendous play this season. He has been a key element in both the pass and run game of this team. A dual threat titan that this team has relied heavily on. The Thunder struggled mid-late season when he was sidelined due to an ankle injury, but he is back, healthy, and ready to take on the post season.
Overall, this team has shined entering the Football Federation Alliance in their first season. They have overcome not only injuries, but coaching changes and personal responsibilities off the field. The Thunder look to turn some heads going into their first playoff berth and become a statement team to watch out for in this league.
Photo by: Bill Ward