The ball can take many different bounces and it took a huge one in the Central Lakes College Raiders’ 39-7 win over Northland in the MCAC state semifinal game Saturday in Brainerd.
Leading 13-7 late in the second quarter after giving up a touchdown to the high-powered Pioneers, the Raiders faced a first and 10 on the 11 yard line with 15 seconds left in the half.
Andrew Johnson threw a strike over the middle of the field to Paul Lake. The ball bounced off Lake’s shoulder pad and into the opportunistic hands of Anthony Shelman and he sprinted into the end zone for his second of three scores.
The play put the momentum back into the hands of the No. 1 seeded Raiders.
“I threw it and saw it bounce and Anthony catch it and all I could do was put my hands on top of my head and say it’s better to be lucky than good some times,” said Johnson.
The touchdown throw was one of four for Johnson as he finished with 232 yards on 15 of 26 passing.
Central Lakes gained 376 yards of offense and produced six touchdowns. It also dealt with injuries as Beau Bellmore and Blake Petrich were lost to injury.
“We usually like to have a fullback on the field and Blake is a good one,” Johnson said. “We had to go one running back the entire game, which we can do, but we like to use our play makers.”
Offensive coordinator Neil Linhart made adjustments and reserve running back Sean Nokken gained 69 yards on 15 rushes.
“Our guys are resilient and tough,” said head coach Greg Medeck. “We have faced this all year. We are not a deep squad with being thin on numbers. All of the guys here can play. When we faced these guys in the first game, we lost five guys in that game alone. Our guys wanted it bad enough and they were prepared and worked hard and cared more about it and it worked our way today.”
The biggest connection of the day was between Johnson and Shelman as they got together for seven completions for 119 yards. Shelman caught touchdown passes of 28, 11 and nine yards.
Nathaniel Rutz led the defense with eight tackles followed by Erk Chouinard and Austin Manzey with seven. The Raiders also got to the Pioneers quarterbacks five times. Celestino White led the way with 2.5 sacks.
Four different defensive backs came away with interceptions as the Raiders won the turnover battle 5-1.
“We have an exceptional group of down lineman who can rush the passer very effectively,” said Medeck. “We rotate guys all the time and they do very well and our secondary is very strong. I can’t say enough about the leaders that our safeties Jared (Hoemberg), and Matt (Mogere) provide. They are just tremendous.”
Northland prevented CLC from a perfect season as they defeated the Raiders on a last-second field goal in the season’s first game.
“We talked about it in practice and used it as a little bit of motivation,” Johnson said. ”We played one of our worst games against them the first time. We just wanted to show that we aren’t stopping until we win state.”
Said Medeck about the win: “I told our guys this week that I love going to work every day with them. We want to do that again next week so let’s do whatever it takes. I want to continue our season together. They bought into that message and gave me one of their best games of the year.”
Northland 0 7 0 0 — 7
Central Lakes 7 12 7 13 — 39
CLC-Beau Bellmore 1 run (Andrew Leonhardt kick) 4:35
CLC-Anthony Shelman 28 pass from Andew Johnson (kick failed) 12:59
N-Dunklin Deonte 3 pass from Edin Kovak (Jerry Guerrero kick) 1:05
CLC-Shelman 11 pass from Johnson (conversion failed) :15
CLC-Matthew Scott 21 pass from Johnson (Leonhardt kick) 1:48
CLC-Shelman 9 pass from Johnson (Leonhard kick) 8:54
CLC-Brandon Kiel 18 pass from Skyler Shearer (kick failed) 1:00
Rushing Att/Yds: CLC 36-119; N 31-106
Passing Att/Comp/Int/Yds: CLC 17-30-1-257; N 12-32-4-130
Total yards: CLC 376, N 236
Rushing: CLC-Sean Nokken 15-69, Bellmore 10-37, Johnson 7-21; N-Devon Teeling 3-40, Keon Doblej 2-35, Darian Nelson 11-33.
Passing: CLC-Johnson 15-26-1-232, Shearer 2-4-0-25; N-Kovak 11-22-1-100, Derrickus Franklin 1-6-1-30.
Receiving: CLC-Shelman 7-119, Michael Sparish 2-11, Nokken 2-5, Paul Lake 1-33, Blake Petrich 1-29, Matthew Scott 1-21, Brandon Kiel 1-18; N-Tyler Anderson 3-67, Darian Nelson 3-6, Phil Williams 1-30.
Next Central Lakes vs. Rochester/Fon Du Lac winner in MCAC State Championship game at St. Cloud State, Sunday.