Led by sophomore quarterback Andrew Johnson, the Central Lakes College Raiders’ offense was facing a wet field and a 20-point deficit in a key Southern Division matchup against Minnesota West on Saturday afternoon.
Having just coughed up the ball three times in their own territory, and after having seen the Blue Jays score 20 straight points against them, the Raiders’ offense got the ball on their 26-yard-line with 7:21 left in the second quarter.
Thirteen plays and seven minutes later, Johnson connected on his first touchdown pass of the day, a 9-yard strike to Shaquille Peterson and the Raiders had cut the lead to 27-14 at the end of the first half.
“I did not want it to rain today,” said Johnson. “We were just praying that it wouldn’t rain but I think we have a very strong group that faces adversity and we overcome the elements. It starts with me showing poise and letting them know that it is not going to affect us. I think we did an OK job early but started a little slow. Then it started raining and it was good.”
Johnson was better than good as he threw for five touchdowns and 284 yards on 20 of 35 passing. He didn’t throw an interception to lead the Raiders to a 50-39 win over the Blue Jays.
The Raiders entered the game with a 4-1 record, which had them tied with Minnesota West, one game behind Rochester. CLC already has played Rochester, absorbing their only loss of the season at Rochester. The Blue Jays will face Rochester in the last game of the regular season, so Saturday’s loser would more than likely have to travel for a quarterfinal playoff game.
Johnson started off the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown plunge and Jack Corbett’s kick made it 7-0 at the 12:02 mark of the first quarter.
Minnesota West responded with a touchdown from Reuben Linton II at 4:11 of the first quarter to tie the game at 7-7.
The second quarter started badly for the Raiders as Zach Norman scored for Minnesota West. On the ensuing series, Johnson fumbled with the Blue Jays recovering on the Raiders’ 39. Linton II ran in from five yards for his second touchdown of the day and it was 20-7.
Johnson fumbled on the next series, but the Raiders got the ball back on an interception, only to fumble the ball back to Minnesota West. This time the Blue Jays made them pay and it was 27-7.
“When we got down right away not one guy on the sideline was down, and we were still encouraging one another,” said Johnson. “We had a lot of time and we were able to overcome the deficit. I am really proud of this group.”
The Raiders came back out for the key drive of the second quarter, and got back into the game on the pass from Johnson to Peterson.
“We actually didn’t have to change up that much,” said CLC offensive coordinator Neil Linhart. “We had a similar situation when we went down to Rochester and I think we may have panicked on offense a little bit with the play calling as well as the play on the field.
“This time it was about relaxing and settling down. We could still move the ball and we saw that on the last series of the first half. We were running the ball and getting big chunks of yardage. We just took things as they came and we were able to put up quite a few points.”
The Raiders put up 22 consecutive points on the Blue Jays in the third quarter. Sam Moriarty got things going with a 15-yard catch from Johnson. Athen Ashton had a 27-yard scoring burst, and Brandon Kiel was on the other end of a 37-yard scoring pass from Johnson to give the Raiders a 36-27 lead with 4:49 left in the quarter. Kiel finished with five catches for 100 yards.
Minnesota West closed out the quarter on a 1-yard run from Massop to cut the lead to three, but the Raiders came back with two more scores in the fourth quarter.
Moriarty caught his second touchdown pass from Johnson, and Allen Allman made a 15-yard catch from Johnson as the Raiders faced fourth and three with 2:46 remaining and leading by just four at the time. That score made it 50-39 and CLC had secured the win.
“Preparing this week we thought the weather would favor their offensive attack,” said CLC head coach Greg Medeck. “We felt that it was important to execute our passing game and take a lead to get them out of their game. We pretty much had to throw that out the window and both teams were throwing the ball all over. It is not what we expected, but it was a great challenge and great to see our kids be resilient.”
Johnson knows the last two regular-season games are key for the Raiders.
“We need to work to get better and fine tune our game to start strong and finish strong. We want it all to be perfect and it is two weeks until the playoffs so we are going to keep working at it,” Johnson said.
Minnesota West 7 20 6 6 — 39
Central Lakes 7 7 22 14 — 50
CLC-Andrew Johnson 1 run (Jack Corbett kick) 12:02
M-Reuben Linton II 28 run (Smith kick) 4:11
M-Zach Norman 3 run (kick failed) 13:15
M-Linton II 5 run (Smith kick) 11:07
M-Norman 1 run (Smith kick) 7:30
CLC-Shaquille Peterson 9 pass from Johnson (Corbett kick) :48
CLC-Sam Moriarty 15 pass from Johnson (Corbett kick) 10:05
CLC-Athen Ashton 27 run (Corbett kick) 7:43
CLC-Brandon Kiel 37 pass from Johnson (Peterson pass from Kiel) 4:49
M-Logan Massop 1 run (kick failed) 1:47
CLC-Moriarty 15 pass from Johnson (Corbett kick) 10:53
M-Neil Ross 28 pass from Colin Brons (kick failed) 6:07
CLC-Allen Allman 15 pass from Johnson (Corbett kick) 2:46
Rushes-yards: CLC 41-99; MW 29-101
Pass comp-att-int-yds: CLC 20-35-0-284; MW 14-35-2-187
Total offense: CLC 383; MW 288
Rushing: CLC-Ashton 13-47, Erik McAfee 12-37; MW-Linton II 7-56, Norman 13-36
Passing: CLC-Johnson 20-35-0-284; MW-Massop 11-27-2-136, Brons 3-8-0-51
Receiving: CLC-Kiel 5-100, Steve Wroblewski 4-56; MW-Ross 2-60, Taeron George 4-50
Division: CLC 2-1, MW 1-1. Overall: CLC 5-1, MW 4-2. Next: CLC vs Vermilion at Ely 1:30 p.m. Saturday.