When Joel Struckhoff took over the head coaching job for the Thunder Ridge Longhorns, the program had gone through its worst stretch in the ten-year history of the school. From 2015-2017, the Longhorns went 3-23. The Class of 2022 entered high school the same year Struckhoff took over and from there, they have had four straight winning seasons.
This year’s senior class compiled a 30-11 record in their four seasons as Longhorns and in 2021, they had the second-best record in school history, finishing 11-1. After an 11-0 start, they lost to eventual 8-Man DII State Champion Axtell in the state semifinals.
Olin Brown, Daxton Dunlap and Owen Hrabe were all a big part of that success, as evidenced by their invitations to the 8-Man All-Star Game on Saturday. All three athletes will play for the DII East squad in the afternoon game.
Brown started his season on the offensive line for the Longhorns, but midway through, it became evident he could make a difference handling the pigskin. He was moved to fullback ahead of the Osborne game and finished the season with 477 yards and 15 TD, averaging 7.8 yards each time he carried the ball. As an honorable mention All-State LB, he also led the Longhorn defense with 127 tackles with 19 for loss. Brown reflected on his memories of the season, including that transition to fullback.
Helping pave the way for Brown in the end was Owen Hrabe. Hrabe was an honorable mention All-State OL and first team All-NPL and All-District. With Hrabe manning the center position, the Longhorns ran for over 3,000 yards in 2021. He also added 34 tackles on defense. He commented on what led to the great success for Thunder Ridge.
Daxton Dunlap was a steady player for the Longhorns in 2021 as well. He registered 45 tackles and three interceptions from his defensive back position. He caught just six passes on the season for 188 yards, but three of his receptions went for touchdowns. He was second team all-league and all-district at both positions. Dunlap was happy to credit his coach for the success he and his teammates had in high school.
The Thunder Ridge representatives have one last chance to showcase their football skills in the 8-Man DII All-Star Game on Saturday afternoon at Trojan Field in Beloit. Kickoff for the game is at 1:30 with pregame coverage beginning at 1:00 on KD Country 94 and the Kansas 8-Man All-Star Game Radio Network at http://www.8manallstars.com. More info on the festivities surrounding the games can be found at nckssports.com.