Thunder claim 4th Consecutive National Championship
Tulsa to Joplin to History!
Joplin,MO-Oklahoma Thunder win record-setting 4th consecutive GDFL National Title second-seeded Oklahoma Thunder defeated top-seed Middle Tennessee 24-12 to win the 10th Annual Gridiron Bowl and its 4th consecutive national championship. The contest was a defensive struggle between two excellent teams, with a total of 12 forced turnovers and 6 sacks.Both offenses were held well below their season averages in total yardage as well.
Middle Tennessee threatened to score early on its first drive, using an eight-minute drive that spanned 12 plays and 55 yards. That drive ended in a goal-line stand, however, as Thunder CB #21 James Caligone tackled a Bulldawgs WR at the Thunder 1 yard line. Later in the 1st half, Middle Tennessee capitalized on a Thunder interception and threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to make the score 6-0.
That score would end up being the halftime margin. A couple of big defensive plays early in the 3rd quarter turned the game around and gave the Thunder a lead they would not relinquish:
• A 36-yard interception return for a touchdown by #26 DJ Wolfe during Middle Tennessee’s open drive of the third quarter, resulting in a 7-6 Thunder lead.
• A 26-yard interception return for a touchdown by #55 Shawn Jackson that extended the Thunder lead to 14-6. In all, the defense held Middle Tennessee to only 143 total yards while forcing 7 turnovers (6 interceptions), 3 sacks, 3 hurries, 2 blocked punts, and an average of only 2.1 yards per rush.
Thunder Defensive Coordinator Morgan Clements had this to say about his unit’s effort: “We have the #1 defense in the nation and have had the best for the last 4 years bar none. We made a few adjustments from the first time we played the Bulldawgs and our players bought in and made it happen.” “We never doubted we would win the game” explained OT Brandon Brown. “The defense shined brighter than ever. We knew we had to win by any means…” Offensively, QB Daniel Knighten came in during the second half and helped the Thunder produce key, time-consuming drives that controlled the clock and preserved the lead. His leadership and command of the offense landed him the league’s Most Valuable Player award. The drives he led resulted in points:
• #22 K David Goodson made a 28-yard field goal to extend the lead to 17-12 in the 4th quarter
• #15 RB/WR Winston Holder took a hand-off from Knighten and hit a wide-open #17 WR Trae Sterns for a touchdown, extending the lead to 24-12. The victory now extends the Thunder’s national/world title count to 8.
Hall of Fame Head Coach Rashid Lowe had this to say about the team’s accomplishments: “We faced a lot of adversity. Injuries had never plagued us like they did this year. Some of them were career ending and we sustained significant injuries to three separate QBs. Knighten’s contribution was so significant because of how he recovered from his own significant injury early in the year to lead us to victory in the second half. Perseverance the Thunder way!”
ABOUT THE GDFL
The Gridiron Developmental Football League is a Professional Developmental Football League based in Memphis, Tennessee. This League was established to provide the community with high quality sports entertainment and to provide athletes the opportunity to participate in professional sports. We are looking at partnering with national and local area businesses in our pursuit of excellence and commitment to our community. Our commitment, dedication, and vision are set on building a firm foundation for professionalism and quality. The Gridiron Developmental Football League continues to strive to provide a quality minor professional level of football throughout the United States and beyond giving area athletes and fans the opportunity be a part of history. Our organization would like to thank you for your support. We are excited about the upcoming season and look forward to “Making AN IMPACT” in our Community.
Fans can visit our website at www.gdfl.org for upcoming announcements, ticketing info, and player tryouts.
The GDFL Communications Office contributed to this article.