The Central Lakes College Raiders and Rochester Yellowjackets will combine tradition with redemption.
The Yellowjackets will stake their three state championships in five seasons against a hungry Raiders team, which has lost to Rochester two of the last three times the teams have meet in the championship.
“I believe Sunday should be a good football game, one that represents the best of the MCAC and junior college football in Minnesota,” said Raiders head coach Greg Medeck. “For several years we have had good, competitive matchups with Rochester and this should be no different. This will be the fourth championship game between the two teams in the last six years.”
CLC advanced to the final for the first time in a decade in 2007 finishing second to Rochester. In 2009, the Raiders won their first state tournament by beating the Yellowjackets. The two teams met again in 2011 with Rochester beating CLC.
The Raiders are ranked No. 12 and Rocheter 14 in the NJCAA Division III National poll.
The Yellowjackets are ranked No. 1 in both offense and defense in the MCAC. CLC is ranked No. 2 in both categories.
Rochester finished with 3,321 total yards and 321 points. CLC tallied 2,657 yards and 245 points. The most revealing statistics were the difference in rushing and passing yards. The Raiders rushed for 1,266 yards while Rochester finished with 670. In the passing game, the Yellowjackets gained 2,651 yards to CLC’s 1,391.
Raider quarterback Andrew Johnson led the division in passing. The next three leading passers were all Rochester QBs in Earl Young, Josh Valla, and Kevin Monkam.
CLC’s Beau Bellmore was the division rushing leader with 755 yards.
Defensively, the Yellowjackets allowed just 61 points and 1,169 total yards. The Raiders finished with 95 points allowed and 1,368 total yards — the only Southern Division teams to give up less than 200 yards per game.
The Raiders knocked off the then No. 1 Yellowjackets 31-23 during their regular season match up Sept. 15.
The two teams combined for 686 passing yards. Johnson totaled four passing touchdowns with three of those going to Anthony Shelman. Valla threw two touchdowns to Evan Bungum for the Yellowjackets.
CLC’s Marion Lambright returned an interception for touchdown and Jared Hoemberg intercepted a pass on the opening defensive series that led to the first score for CLC.
“It is very difficult to beat a team twice in one season and people will remember the latter result much more so than the result of the first match up,” said Medeck. “I am certain RCTC will be prepared and they will present a lot of challenges for us. We will need to have our absolute best performance on Sunday in order to have a chance at accomplishing our goals.”
The Yellowjackets have one of the best kickers in Fafa Asante, who led the division in scoring with 59 points, and kicked three field goals against CLC.
But Matt Mogere leads the division with 144 punt return yards, including two returns for touchdowns for the determined Raiders.
“All season our group has tossed around key words that reflect our team and the way we play football,” Medeck said. “We have talked about hard work, inspiration, composure, passion, execution, family, respect, and pride. I think that this week in particular we have found a label that best describes the 2012 Raiders, determined.”