Doug Nisenson played a role in establishing the ThunderRidge football team as one of the state's elite programs. Now he's a key figure in restoring some of the Grizzlies' lost mystique on the …
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Doug Nisenson played a role in establishing the ThunderRidge football team as one of the state's elite programs.
Now he's a key figure in restoring some of the Grizzlies' lost mystique on the football field.
Nisenson played football at ThunderRidge as a 240-pound center and was on the teams that won the Class 4A football state championships in 2004 and 2005.
The Grizzlies won three state titles in the early years after the school began varsity athletic competition in the 1998-99 school year. ThunderRidge has won 10 league championships and been a state semifinalist seven times.
Between 1999 and 2006, ThunderRidge compiled a 90-15-0 record and was still one of the state's elite teams when moving up to 5A competition in 2008. The Grizzlies have had only three losing seasons in 20 season and three of them came in the past five years.
Starting with the 2014 campaign, ThunderRidge fell on hard times and managed records of 4-6-0, 7-5-0, 4-6-0 and 3-7-0.
Nisenson took over the coaching duties from his former mentor, Joe Johnson, before the 2017 season and this season the Grizzlies were 9-3-0 and made it to the state quarterfinals. Two of the three losses this season were to Valor Christian.
“I don't think you would have found anybody outside of our football community that though we would be in the quarterfinals,” said Nisenson. “We won more games this season than the past two seasons combined.”
There were 24 seniors on the Grizzlies' roster, and Nisenson was quick to credit them for the turnaround.
“It was the first playoff trip since 2015 and I can't say enough about the seniors,” he continued. “They did everything we ask and worked hard. That was our message from day one when I took over. We had to get back to doing things right in the weight room, over the summer and in the spring and really understand that winning is a byproduct and not an end result.
“We beat some football teams this year that were way better than we were and probably nobody would have given us a chance against. They brought our program back, and I'm proud of them.”
ThunderRidge's playoff experience this season will benefit in the future, the coach believes.
“I felt it was going in the right direction last year,” pointed out Nisenson. “We just couldn't win the close ones last year and we won some of those this year."
Senior quarterback Ryan Gilmore noted that the underclass players will approach football with a different attitude than in the past, and he feels the success this year will help the program.
“We had a strong senior class this year,'' Gilmore said. “We started a tradition again where these classes behind us will follow and great things will come for the program. The sophomores and freshmen will come out and ThunderRidge will have a heck of a season again next year. We have restored tradition.”
Gilmore accounted for 29 touchdowns this season. He was 114-of-196 for 1,853 yards passing and threw 19 TD passes. He rushed for 1,048 yards and 10 scores.
Senior tailback Spencer Lambert led the 5A South Metro League in rushing with 1,614 yards. He also caught 28 passes for 504 yards and was the league scoring leader with 126 points and 21 touchdowns.
Defensively, senior linebacker Ethan Frasier was the league leader with 140 total tackles and senior Sam Motzkus had 11.5 sacks and 18 hurries to pace the league. Senior JT Snow had three interceptions, which tied for the league lead.
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