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Thunder hoping to go in different direction

Change in status quo

Published: Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014 11:55 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014 4:21 p.m. CDT
(Michael Krabbenhoeft/
West Carroll coach Michael Bicksler talks to his team during practice last Tuesday in Savanna.
(Michael Krabbenhoeft/
West Carroll coach Michael Bicksler leads his team through exercises and drills during practice last Tuesday afternoon in Savanna.
(Michael Krabbenhoeft/
The West Carroll Thunder football team goes through warm-up drills at the beginning of practice last Tuesday afternoon in Savanna.

Mason VanHook is tired of being on an average team. Michael Bicksler is tired of coaching teams to average seasons.

The two have felt that way for some time, and before this year’s football season, the two sat down and talked about how to better approach the season in hopes to win more games.

VanHook, West Carroll’s senior quarterback, spoke with Thunder head coach Bicksler at the beginning of the season, and told his coach that they needed to find a way to be better.

“He told me he wanted things to change,” Bicksler said during a practice last week. “I told him I wanted things to change, too. We both came in here to the program at the same time, and we’ve grown up together.”

VanHook was a freshman when Bicksler took over as head coach of the Thunder before the 2011 season and has been a varsity starter for each of his first three seasons.

He is a leader on a team that collectively hopes to make some changes this year.

The two that started together have one more season to turn things around.

“When he’s gone next year,” Bicksler said, “I hope we can send him and the seniors off with a good season.”

In the pair’s three seasons, the Thunder have yet to win more than three games in a season. West Carroll finished with a 3-6 record the past two seasons, and went 2-7 during their first year. But with the way practices have been going, the two are looking forward to the Aug. 29 kickoff against Eastland-Pearl City.

“We’re excited about this season,” VanHook said. “We’ve been working hard, and I think everyone is bringing the right attitude each day.”

The attitude stems from minor changes to practices, part of the change that the coach and quarterback spoke about before the first practices of the season.

Each day, the team takes the field together for practice, and leaves the field as one. The hope is to simulate the gameday experience each day.

“I started that this year,” Bicksler said. “It’s important that they realize that those wins on Friday start here on the practice field. When we win, we win as a team. When we lose, we lose as a team.

“They get antsy and they get the jitters like they do before games. It was kind of nice to see them ready to go.”

The Thunder have a tough schedule to open the season. Their combined opponents’ record from last season is 35-10 through the first four games. While it will be a rough stretch, senior defensive lineman Brentlee Davidson is among those who have been excited about the progress he has seen in practice, and said the Thunder expect to come out with some wins.

“The coaches told us to be greedy,” Davidson said. “We think that we can reach the playoffs this season. We know that’s what every team shoots for, but if we really want it and shoot for it, we believe we can get it.”

Did you know?

The Thunder’s last winning season came in 2007 (6-5). It was the last season the Thunder have been to the playoffs, ending a program-high 3-year playoff streak.

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