Central Lakes College versus Vermilion on Saturday afternoon at Findorff Athletic Complex was set up to be an emotional letdown game for the Raiders.
They were coming off an exciting 21-20 win at Minnesota West last Saturday and were looking at a game at Ridgewater next Saturday for the division title could have been in the back of their minds.
The Raiders were also facing a Vermilion team that was playing with a depleted roster with less than 30 players in uniform for the game.
CLC did not fall into the trap as the Raiders jumped Vermilion for 30 first-quarter points and coasted to a 53-7 win to set up a huge game with Ridgewater.
“I don’t know if we had a concern of stumbling in this game, but we did want to see our guys come out and be passionate and aggressive, and they did that today,” said CLC head coach Greg Medeck. “It was a good sign of the way our team operates and the camaraderie that has developed.”
Vermilion received the opening kickoff, but on third down, Matt Mogere stepped in front of a pass by quarterback Jordan Manahan and returned it 45 yards for a Raiders score.
“We all came together as a defensive unit today,” Mogere said. “Our defensive line applied pressure on the quarterback and the defensive backs were there to clean it up.”
After the Raiders forced a three and out from Vermilion on the next series, the Raiders’ offense got their first score of the game on a 53-yard scamper by Beau Bellmore to lead 14-0 just 2.5 minutes into the game. Bellmore finished with 104 yards on just 10 carries as he, along with a number of the Raiders’ starters, were out of the game midway through the second quarter.
Andrew Johnson also connected with Blake Petrich on a 9-yard strike, and Johnson ran for a 46-yard touchdown, all in the first quarter.
The only mark against CLC was a 56-yard connection from Vermilion’s Manahan to Jordan Hoffman for a touchdown on a ball that was tipped.
Leading 30-7 after the first quarter, CLC put 16 points on the board in the second quarter. Bill Holder caught a 33-yard scoring pass from backup quarterback Skyler Shearer.
After a 23-yard field goal by Andrew Leonhardt, Mogere stepped in front of another Vermilion pass and returned it 20 yards for his second score of the day.
With a 46-7 Raiders lead at the half, officials and coaches from both teams agreed to play running time for the second half. Sean Nokken capped off the scoring for CLC with a 14-yard run at the end of the quarter to give the Raiders a 46-point lead.
CLC held the Ironmen to negative-14 yards on 30 carries. In the passing game, Vermilion recorded 98 yards with 56 on its one scoring play.
Dacotah Thompson led the Raiders’ defense with eight tackles and 1.5 sacks. CLC had 23 players record a solo or assisted tackle.
“We are looking for all three facets of our game to execute and with the exception of once crazy play, we did that,” Medeck said of his team’s play. “I thought our defense played really well and that’s what we wanted to see out of them. We got big plays from our offense with a lot of different guys contributing.”
Medeck was also able to unload his bench and get playing time for his reserves.
“We’ve suffered our share of injuries this season and for us to get that many guys in to get meaningful time, and get the chance to evaluate them, it was a good day today,” he said.
With the Vermilion win in their rear view mirror, the Raiders can now concentrate on a huge match up at Ridgewater. With a victory in that game, CLC clinches the regular-season title in the Southern Division, and would host two playoff games.
Ridgewater lost to Rochester on Saturday for their first division loss, but the Raiders still need to win to take the title outright.
This will also be a revenge game for CLC as Ridgewater knocked the Raiders out of the MCAC state playoffs last season.
“It is going to be a tough game,” Mogere said of Ridgewater. “We are both talented teams so it’s going to come down to who wants it more.”
Medeck pointed out there will be a focus this week on the task at hand.
“There is a built-in rivalry that has been on going the last six years with a traveling trophy,” he said. “We lost last year for the first time and would like to get that back. They knocked us out last year so there are a ton of reasons, but the biggest is to see our team get better and be home for the playoffs.”
Vermilion 7 0 0 0 — 7
Central Lakes 30 16 7 0 — 53
CLC — Matt Mogere 45 interception return (Andrew Leonhardt kick)
CLC — Beau Bellmore 53 run (Leonhardt kick)
CLC — Blake Petrich nine pass from Andrew Johnson (Leonhardt kick)
CLC — Jordan Manahan (Ver) fumbles out of back of end zone
CLC — Johnson 46 run (Leonhardt kick)
Ver — Jordan Hoffmann 56 pass from Manahan (Jorgen Munson kick)
CLC — Bill Holder 33 pass from Skyler Shearer (kick failed)
CLC — Leonhardt 23 field goal
CLC — Mogere 20 interception return (Leonhardt kick)
CLC — Sean Nokken 14 run (Leonhardt kick)
Rushes-yards: V 30-(14), CLC 36-248
Pass comp-att-int-yds: V 9-28-4-98, CLC 6-10-0-82
Total offense: V 84, CLC 330
Rushing: V-Jaylen Duncan 20-28, CLC-Bellmore 10-104, Nokken 12-46, Johnson 2-43, Brandon Kiel 1-31
Passing: V-Manahan 5-19-3-84, David Dennis 4-8-1-14, CLC-Shearer 3-4-0-48, Johnson 3-5-0-34
Receiving: V-Burrell Flanagan 3-15, Hoffmann 2-67, CLC-Matthew Scott 3-36, Holder 1-33, Petrich 1-9, Kiel 1-4
Division: CLC 3-0. Overall: CLC 6-1. Next: Central Lakes vs. Ridgewater at Willmar 1:30 p.m. Saturday.