It is called thunder, but it was music to the ears of Montesano High School football coach Terry Jensen.
While the 2014 MHS football season began with the first practice on Aug. 20, Saturday was the beginning of full contact allowed at practice. Along with the first contact came “Thunder,” an annual tradition that even predates Jensen, who is starting his 13th season as the Bulldog coach.
Thunder is Montesano’s version of what is more commonly known as an Oklahoma Drill, in which six blocking dummies are lined up with three on each side about three yards apart to form a barrier. Players line up between the tackling dummies with two individuals as offensive lineman and one running back and then two defensive linemen and one linebacker on the opposing side. The running back is given the ball and on a signal will try to weave his way through the defensive players without going outside of the barrier.
The Bulldogs started practice at 9 a.m. and worked through the early morning heat. As 11 a.m. rolled around, there were almost as many family members and community members watching practice as players participating.
“It has grown,” Jensen said. “It used to be just the players, and then parents started gravitating to it and now it is pretty well attended. It is fun. It is a way for us to get the intensity level up and realize this is the level you have to play at for a football game.”
The crowd circled the tackling dummies and as the volume level was turned up on “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC, the intensity level was turned up for the players.
For Jensen, the drill was a chance to gauge the toughness and physicality of his team and evaluate some players who are log jammed at some positions. For the players, it was a chance to get to let out some aggression, show off in front of family and friends and, for some, it was even a chance to call out a family member.
After 11 groups rotated through the drill with each player getting to carry the ball once, the final group was a call out with a few seniors choosing their opponent in the drill. For Monte senior Matthew Peoples, it wasn’t hard to figure out who he wanted to challenge and soon he was lined up against his brother, Luke, a junior.
The brothers lined up against each other for one drill as linemen before Luke got his chance as running back. Luke sprinted toward the line and cut left to avoid a tackle, but Matthew was right there with knees bent and head up in perfect form to explode into the tackle.
“I called him out because he is my brother and I haven’t done it yet — senior year, got to do it,” Matthew said. “It was way more competition than in a game. It was brother to brother.”
The first episode of the football family feud ended with Luke on his back and Matthew shouting and receiving high-fives. The second episode would happen three plays later, as Matthew would get the ball for the final drill of the day. Matthew made one cut to the right side and looked for paydirt.
“Everyone was blocking to the right so he was running left and I am like ‘This is mine,’ and I went low and into the side of his gut and took him out,” Luke said.
The junior wrapped up his brother’s knees and picked him up before he put him into the turf. The team and crowd went wild.
“I’m surprised he could hit that hard,” Matthew said. “I didn’t know that. I was really proud of him right there.”
Regardless of who hit the hardest or who may have fumbled after the hit by his brother, both Matthew and Luke were all smiles as they walked off the field. For both of the Peoples, the day was summed up the same way.
“That was awesome.”