Stars of Thunder Ridge is a big hit

When Joel Struckhoff took over as head coach of the Thunder Ridge Longhorns, the program had experienced its worst streak in the school’s ten-year history. From 2015 to 2017, the Longhorns went 3-23. The Class of 2022 entered high school the same year Struckhoff took over and from there, they 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 all played big roles in that success, as evidenced by their invitations to the 8-a-side game on Saturday. All three athletes will play for the DII East team in the afternoon game.

Brown started his season on the Longhorns offensive line, but midway through it became apparent he could make a difference by handling the pigskin. He was moved to fullback before the Osborne game and finished the season with 477 yards and 15 TDs, averaging 7.8 yards each time he carried the ball. As an All-State LB honorable mention, he also led the Longhorn defense with 127 tackles including 19 for loss. Brown reflected on his memories of the season, including that transition back.


Owen Hrabe ultimately helped pave the way for Brown. Hrabe was an honorable mention All-State OL and first-team All-NPL and All-District. With Hrabe in the middle position, the Longhorns have rushed for over 3,000 yards in 2021. He has also added 34 tackles on defense. He commented on what led to the great success of Thunder Ridge.

Daxton Dunlap was also a regular for the Longhorns in 2021. He recorded 45 tackles and three interceptions from his defensive back position. He’s caught just six passes this season for 188 yards, but three of his receptions have been for touchdowns. He was second team all leagues and all districts in both positions. Dunlap was happy to credit his coach for the success he and his teammates had in high school.

Representatives from Thunder Ridge have one last chance to show off their footballing skills in the 8-Man DII All-Star Game on Saturday afternoon at Trojan Field in Beloit. The game kicks off at 1:30 a.m. with pre-game coverage beginning at 1:00 a.m. on KD Country 94 and the Kansas 8-Man All-Star Game Radio Network at http://www.8manallstars.com. More information on the festivities surrounding the games can be found at nckssports.com.

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