Central Lakes College has to be on the radar of any high school football player who hopes eventually to play at a 4-year college, or who just wants to play two more years.
Under the direction of head coach Greg Medeck, the Raiders have become one of the state’s destination community college programs. They fortified that reputation Sunday by winning the Minnesota College Athletic Conference championship, defeating arch-nemesis Rochester 33-23 for CLC’s second state title in four seasons.
The contest marked CLC’s fourth state final appearance in Medeck’s six years as coach. His Raider teams have won three Southern Division titles and played in three bowl games.
The 34-year-old has built one of the state’s top programs by recruiting talented individuals and assembling a quality coaching staff.
“If you can find a way to assemble a bunch of good people who are willing to work for the same type of goals, good things will happen,” Medeck said. “We’ve been selective in the players we try to bring into the program. We want kids who are going to represent what this college is about, what the community is about, players who work hard at excelling at their craft, and be good student-athletes, and good people.”
CLC is Medeck’s alma mater. He played linebacker for the Raiders in 1997-98.
“I care deeply for this program, one that I played in and I enjoyed coming through, and I want a chance to give something back,” he said. “If you can have one or two players who can say my time here really impacted my life, that’s a huge accomplishment right there.”
Medeck’s Raider teams have compiled a 51-15 record.
“Wins and losses are really important, but they take care of themselves,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be the focal point, but you want good people who invest in being here.
“It’s hard, particularly at this level, how transitional it is. We know everyone has different goals, different dreams and aspirations, but we try to help them achieve those. A bigger part might be having phenomenal experience here in a short time in our program.”
His coaching staff this fall was bolstered by the hiring of Neil Linhart as offensive coordinator. Linhart and offensive line coach Shane Jordan collaborated to formulate game plans.
“We were so fortunate to be able to bring Neil into the mix here, and I will do whatever I can to keep him here as long as I can,” Medeck said. “He’s been a tremendous asset to our program in a number of ways. He relates to players well, he has a great football mind. He and I have the same philosophy.
“He’s a relentless worker. He works longer hours than I do — so I get to see my kids once in a while. He’s really diligent.
“Shane’s in his second year and has developed so much. He’s a great asset, with his rapport with young men. They respect him, they listen to him, he’s been a wonderful, positive influence on kids. The kids like to be around him. He’s just a great motivator and teacher.”
Former Raider player Matt Spoden returned as a student assistant this fall, coaching linebackers and helping Medeck coordinate the defense.
On Tuesday, the Raiders (10-1) moved up to 10th in the National Junior College Athletic Association rankings. They won 10 straight games since losing the season opener to Northland.
During the regular season, nine Raiders were named division players of the week. On Tuesday, five were named to the All-Region 13 team, seven to the all-division first team.
The million-dollar question is will CLC get to go to a bowl game? The Raiders played in the 2009 and 2011 Graphic Edge Bowl games at Cedar Falls, Iowa, and in the 2010 Valley of the Sun Bowl at Phoenix. Bowl pairings will be finalized Nov. 13. Medeck said CLC is having conversations with bowl officials, but nothing is finalized.
Last year, CLC played in a bowl game when it didn’t even make the state playoffs. It would be too bad if the Raiders couldn’t play in one this year after winning a state championship.
Mike Bialka, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.