On Saturday, the Iowa Thunder hosted their divisional rival the Minnesota Machine at Martensdale-St. Mary’s Blue Devil Stadium. This contest was setup as a Battle for Bragging Rights and the winner would hold a firm grip on the outcome of the Midwest Division of the Women’s Football Alliance.
The game began has many anticipated with both offenses struggling to find any kind of consistency against stout defenses on both sides. Coach Grimes of the Thunder said before the game, “This game will come down to a couple of key things. First and foremost we cannot make the mental mistakes that plagued us last year in the second contest against the Machine in Minnesota and second can we contain Machine Quarterback Kim Miller. Miller is a rare player that is a converted running back to Quarterback that still possesses a great ability to run and make the big play."
The entire first quarter would see the Thunder and Machine trade big hit after big hit. The Machine would strike first however in the 2nd quarter when they put together an impressive 74 yard drive behind the strong running of Miller and Tailback Yolanda Searcy. Penalties and issues with the Machine’s formation would eventually end with a great five yard touchdown run by Machine Fullback Melisa Schuelter. The Machine would hold that score into halftime.
At halftime, Coach Grimes of the Thunder was forced to make a decision that few Coaches would make. Defensive End/Linebacker Jennifer Hirakawa who had five solo tackles and two assists which helped to contain the Machine offense in the first half suffered an injury. Despite Hirakawa’s known toughness and guile, Coach Grimes along with his training staff made the decision to sit her in the second half. “As I told the players after the game, this is just one game and in all the years I have played and coached football one game does not make a season. There was no point in me risking further injury to a player,” stated Grimes when asked after the game.
Even with Hirakawa out of the game the 2nd Half started in a fashion that left the fans at Blue Devil Stadium thinking this was still the Thunder’s night. Cornerback Allie Millonig picked off Miller and stormed down the sideline for a 57 yard touchdown that tied the score at 7-7 and gave new life to the Thunder.
As many good teams do when faced with this situation, the Machine responded with a quick strike by Miller that led to a 14-7 score and deflated the Thunder’s hopes of coming back on this night. In the 2nd half the Thunder made many mental mistakes on Offense and Defense which allowed the Machine to burn almost 22 minutes of the 2nd half and a final score of 21-7.
After the game Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator Isaiah Shnurman stated, “I hope this loss will prove to be a positive. I know that sounds crazy, but sometimes when you loss you actually gain more, because it drives you to become a better individual player and a better team as a whole. We are a very confident team and we know what we are capable of doing. It really boils down to not making mental mistakes. In any football game when you have two good teams, the one that makes the most mistakes will lose most of the time. We made far too many mistakes in every facet of the game. Like Coach Grimes said after the game to the team, this game is over, not the season. We still have the opportunity to win out the year and win the division. We have work to do this week.”
The Thunder’s next game is this Saturday, May 8th in Nebraska at 1pm.