For most of three quarters, it appeared the Central Lakes College Raiders football team might get the monkey off its back and chalk up a victory.
The Raiders were well within striking distance at the beginning of the fourth quarter, trailing the Northland Pioneers by two points. But Northland scored two touchdowns about five minutes apart and won 35-7.
It was the Raiders' third consecutive loss and now that monkey may feel more like a gorilla.
"We had a great game plan at halftime," CLC coach Mike Degen said. "We had Northland on the run, and if the defense could've held them, we would have been right in it."
The Pioneers scored on their first drive when quaterback Justin Skjervin found wide receiver Rob Anderson for a 27-yard touchdown, one of two on the day for Anderson.
The Raiders blocked the extra-point attempt but kicker Matt Wagner caught the ball in midair and rumbled in for the 2-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
While the Raiders' offense failed to get on track in the first half, the defense showed it was up to the task.
Defensive back Kent Schleif intercepted one pass and recovered a fumble. Six-foot-four, 400-pound defensive tackle Chris Gordon recovered a fumble, Matt Kern of Verndale had an interception and Ross Burau added a fumble recovery.
On offense, running back Maurice Noethtich led CLC with 69 rushing yards and added 31 receiving. Jorgen Hartje led the team in receiving with 36 yards.
The Raiders found their offense in the third quarter when they drove 35 yards to the Northland 5. Matt Smithknecht chipped a 15-yard field goal for the Raiders' first points. Schleif's fumble recovery gave the Raiders the ball back and Hartje nailed a 45-yard field goal to bring CLC within two.
Northland responded as Skjervin hooked up with Brian Harris for a 22-yard touchdown pass to give the Pioneers some breathing room.
Raiders quarterback Matt Gohl took the first snap on the ensuing drive and scampered 64 yards for CLC's first touchdown of the season and again brought the Raiders within two.
"As time went on, we picked apart their defense," Degen said. "It seemed like right when we got our offense clicking, the defense gave up a couple of long ones, and that took us out of our game plan."
Pioneers running back Antione Vance, who led all rushers with 106 yards, provided one of those big plays as he scored on a 60-yard run. Northland followed that up as Skjervin connected for his third touchdown pass of the game, a 43-yard bomb to put the game out of the Raiders' reach.
Degen pointed out that as well as his defense played in the first three quarters, they spent too much time on the field in the 90-degree heat.
"We were in position to make tackles," Degen said. "But when they start missing tackles, that's because it was hot and they were tired."
Northland 8 0 0 27 -- 35
Central Lakes 0 0 6 7 -- 13
NL -- Rob Anderson 27 pass from Justin Skjervin (Two point conversion run by Matt Wagner).
CLC -- Matt Smithknecht 15 FG.
CLC -- Jorgen Hartje 45 FG.
NL -- Brian Harris 22 pass from Skjervin (Wagner kick).
CLC -- Matt Gohl 64 run (Smithknecht kick).
NL -- Antione Vance 60 run (Wagner kick).
NL -- Anderson 43 pass from Skjervin (Wagner kick).
NL -- Kyle Olson 5 run (kick failed).
Rushes-yards -- CLC 34-126, NL 57-304.
Pass comp-att-int-yards -- CLC 12-31-117, NL 10-18-2-209.
Total offense -- CLC 243, NL 513.
Rushing -- CLC Shaun Peoples 4-10, Matt Gohl 7-23, Craig Golkowski 8-20, Darnyl Lovejoy 4-4, Maurice Noethtich 11-69; NL Antione Vance 13-106.
Passing -- CLC Matt Gohl 12-20-117, Matt Yde 0-1-0; NL Justin Skjervin 10-18-2-209-3.
Receiving -- CLC Brandon Flanders 1-12, Jorgen Hartje 2-36, Mark Steffen 3-21, Lovejoy 2-18, Noethtich 2-31; NL Rob Anderson 2-70, Brian Harris 3-70.
Overall -- CLC 0-3. Next game -- CLC vs. Rainy River at International Falls 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
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