Lima Central Catholic head coach Scott Palte said he believes this is one of the main reasons the Thunderbirds are 6-0 and ranked No. 5 in Division V.
“I have been really impressed with the togetherness of our kids,” Palte said. “One of the things is that when you have 35 guys is you have the opportunity to become really close…and our kids really play for each other. Guys one through 35 practice for each other, root for each other and they play for each other. It is as close a group of a high school football team I have ever been a part of in 20 years of coaching. They really care about each other.”
Palte added that nobody cares who gets the ball or makes the tackle or gets the accolades. Instead the team cares about the win at the end of the night.
Building off last year’s success when LCC went unbeaten in the regular season and lost a heartbreaker to Coldwater in the playoffs, the Thunderbirds returners from last year along with five seniors this year have developed a bond that has translated into victories.
Because the vast majority of his squad was freshman and sophomore, Palte was uncertain how things would developed and has been happy with the team’s results thus far.
“Our young guys are talented and they have stepped up and have done such a great job,” Palte said. “They have led our team along with the juniors and seniors they have come together and worked hard and I have to say we have exceeded where I thought we would be with all the tough opponents on the schedule. They have earned all the success they have had.”
Thunderbirds have a strong arsenal of offensive talent beginning with the one-two-three punch in the backfield.
Senior Ron Banks provides the thunder in the LCC backfield. The bulldozing back leads the team in rushing with 610 yards and 13 touchdowns. Adding the lightening to the running game is Shaun Thomas and Rossi Moore. Thomas has amassed 434 yards and eight touchdowns and is averaging an impressive 8.2 yards a carrry. Moore, who is averaging 7.9 yards a carry, has 317 yards and two touchdowns.
All three backs are also good receivers and the trio has combined for 17 catches and 336 yards and five touchdowns.
As a team, LCC is averaging 41.3 points a game.
Quarterback Nevan Stolly adds the balance to the LCC offense. The junior signal caller has passed for 582 yards with six touchdowns and one interception.
Nevan Stolly has had a number of good hands to throw to this year. Five different receivers have caught touchdown passes this year. Nathan Stolly has caught nine passes for 165 yards and one touchdown and Michael Riepenhoff has five catches for 85 yards for one touchdown.
“We are fortunate to have really good team speed,” Palte said. “Shaun, Ron and Rossi and Nav can all run which really helps with what we do and try to get on the edge on a defense and attack. Ron has done a great job in between the tackles with the trap game and the off tackle and then Rossi and Shaun around the end.”
Palte added that Nevan Stolly has been effective in the passing game and points to the team completing more than 75 percent of its passes.
But what really has made the offense go is the work by the boys in the trenches and it is a line that had to fill four spots with one returner from last year’s squad, Ethan Truex, coming back.
However, Palte said the four newcomers to the front, Micah Pierson, Caleb Heider, Austin Campbell and Zac Jacobs have worked hard to come together as a unit.
“They have really done a great job of working hard in practice and learning our plays and communicating with each other on the line and being aggressive,” Palte said. “They have done everything we have asked them to do and they have done a great job of getting on people and getting in the way and when you have guys like we have carrying the ball if you get in the way they are going to find a seam and run.”
If there was one area for concern on the offense was its ability to hold onto the ball early in the year. However Palte said the last game against Woodlan, the Thunderbirds had no fumbles.
Defensively, the Thunderbirds are giving up 14.6 points a contest. One interesting stat is that the Thunderbirds have not given up a point in the third quarter.
Moore leads the team in tackles with 45 and Micah Pearson has recorded a team-leading 5.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.
“We have made some plays when we needed to and we forced four turnovers last Friday,” Palte said. “I think one of the big things we’ve done a great job is we have eliminated the big play.”
It is interesting to note that in week one, the Thunderbirds’ defense lined up with only person in the same position that he was in last year.
“It has been a learning experience each week and I think we have gotten better each week on that side of the football,” Palte said.
Without a league title to contend for, the Thunderbirds battle each week in hopes of making the postseason and Palte said LCC treats each game like a playoff game and that is a great motivator.
“Each week you are going to get better or worse. You are not going to stay the same,” Palte said. “We are hoping that if we are fortunate enough to make week 11 that we are playing our best football.”