The odds were drastically stacked against Woodstock North High School going into the first round playoff game against the Lemont Indians, but giving up is not found anywhere in the North football playbook. Ultimately, the Thunder lost to the Indians in a 50-0 shutout Oct. 27 in the first round of the 5A playoffs.

In the previous two games, North lost its starting senior quarterback Colin Mergl and sophomore backup quarterback Ryan Zinnen to serious injuries, as well as suffering various other injuries to players on the offensive line. They faced Lemont, a team on a seven-game winning streak.

Despite the odds, the fortitude and determination of the Thunder players was as strong as ever. Junior Nicco Mazzanti stepped up to fill the vacant quarterback position in the first half and junior Carter Coalson took command of the field the second half.

“Our starting quarterback has worked on that position for four years. It’s pretty impossible for a kid to make up that time in just four days. We were pretty stuck offensively,” said head coach Jeff Schroeder.

North had four fumbles within the first five possessions and two interceptions the first half. “Despite us giving them the ball several times, the score was only 23-0 going into the half,” said Schroeder. “They wore us out second half. We had a lot of guys playing out of position, but [we] battled hard. Lemont has a lot of one-way players which kept them fresher. They are one of the bigger 5A schools.”

“This loss was definitely not for lack of effort,”  said Schroeder.

Talking about his team, he focused on the fact that the Thunder were in the playoffs for the second time as a back-to-back playoff team and finished second in the Kishwaukee River Conference this year, up from third last year. He also praised the team for bringing the Crosstown Challenge trophy back to WNHS.

“We are a proud program and play with pride,” he said. “We told the kids before the game not to leave with any regrets, especially the seniors. We have a lot to feel good about. We improved a lot on defense and offense, even though stats are not as good as last year because we played much tougher competition.”

He credited the relationships among the players and coaches as a huge part of the team’s success.

“We focus on trying to promote the brotherhood of football,” said Schroeder.

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