They're back. The defending state champions in 8-Man Division II are headed back to Newton to defend their state title.
On Saturday, the Thunder Ridge Longhorns dispensed of a third straight ranked team to advance to the title game. In the first round Thunder Ridge beat #5 Weskan 58-12 and then won at #4 Otis-Bison 28-18. That earned them a spot in sub-state against #2 Wallace County.
The Longhorns jumped out to an early lead, capping the game's opening drive with an 11 yard touchdown run by Derek Reed. It was 8-0 Thunder Ridge.
The home team would go up 10-0 after a bad snap forced Wallace County punter Eli Kuhlman to kick the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
On the next drive the Longhorns stretch the lead to 16-0 thanks to a 36 yard touchdown run from Trevor Lowe. It would be 22-0 at the half after T-Ridge tacked on a another touchdown run from Reed, this one covering 12 yards.
Lowe would get his second touchdown of the game four minutes into the third quarter. The one yard plunge put the Longhorns up 30-0 and then Garrett Krueger's 20 yard run stretched the lead to 36-0.
Wallace County used a little trickeration to get its first score of the game. A 10 yard halfback option made it 36-8 after three quarters.
After a third Lowe touchdown made it 44-8, the Wildcats actually won quarter number four, getting one yard touchdown runs by Edgardo Gonzalez and Gavin Mote. But the hole was too deep. Thunder Ridge holds off a late charging Wallace County to win 44-22.
"It's just a great accomplishment for our kids," said Longhorns head coach Jerry Voorhees. "We lost so much off of last years team, but success seems to breed success."
Thunder Ridge will face Baileyville B&B in the championship game next Saturday in Newton. That is the same team the Longhorns beat 46-14 to win the 8-Man DII title last season.