It wasn't always pretty, but thanks to a bend-but-don't-break defense and resilient offense, the Central Lakes College football team made its mark in the win column for the first time this season Saturday.
The 21-7 victory over Rainy River also gave first-year head coach Greg Medeck his first win as head of the Raiders' program.
But it didn't begin well for the Raiders, who despite being set up with good field position throughout the first half, failed to put any points on the board.
While the defense held on to limit the Voyagers' scoring to one touchdown, the offense consistently failed to move the ball down the field.
Central Lakes College Raider linebacker Tyler Hansen (right) brought down a Rainy River Community College running back Saturday. The Raiders won their home opener 21-7. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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After the disappointing first half, the Raiders came to life in the third quarter, which was highlighted by a 19-yard Demaris Hunter touchdown grab followed by a 85-yard interception return by Landrian Gordon on Rainy River's next possession.
Medeck said the game was a tale of two halves.
"I'm extremely happy with the way our kids responded in the second half," he said. "They (Rainy River) were putting up some yards on us in the first half, but not putting up points. We just started making plays."
Medeck said the Raiders were lucky to escape the first half down just seven points.
"We've always lived and died by our defense here and they held us in it again today," he said. "That first score was just that extra boost this team needed today."
Tied 7-7 late in the third quarter with Rainy River knocking on the end zone door, Gordon's interception return gave the Raiders their first lead of the game as the third quarter expired.
CLC running back Michael LaMirande (center) was stopped by two Rainy River Community College tacklers during their home opener Saturday. The Raiders won the game 21-7. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Gordon said a motivational halftime talk appeared to have the desired effect on the team in the second half.
In regards to his interception, he said the opponent tipped him off.
"I heard one of the players yell on the sidelines, 'Here comes the slant.' I thought they were just bluffing," he said. "But once I saw the receiver take a few steps back, I read the play, made a jump on it and got lucky."
With their first lead of the game in place, the Raiders continued to turn to running back Michael LaMirande, who had 21 carries in the second half alone, including a one-yard touchdown score in the fourth quarter.
LaMirande said he enjoys the role of being the "workhorse" of the team, as he carried the ball 29 times. He added that the offense took on a new identity in the second half.
"I'm feeling fine right now. The offense got really fired up at halftime," he said. "The line stepped it up and started hitting people and moving people out of the way to make my job easier."
CLC 21, Rainy River 7
The key: Raiders' freshman Michael LaMirande carried the ball 29 times for 122 yards and a touchdown
Conference: CLC 1-1
Overall: CLC 1-1
Next: CLC at Vermilion 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Medeck said he hopes the win is another step forward for the program he is now leading.
"I honestly think we have this program going in the right direction," he said. "It was a good feeling for us to get back on the winning side and kind of start our season over fresh again. We know we got the talent to compete in this league."
Rainy River 0 7 0 0 - 7
CLC 0 0 14 7 - 21
CLC scoring plays
Demaris Hunter 19 yd. pass from Mike Beehler (Dan Mace kick)
Landrian Gordon 85 yd. interception return (Dan Mace kick)
Michael LaMirande 1 yd. run (Dan Mace kick)
Rushes-yards: CLC, 31-119, RR, 46-113
Pass comp-att-int-yards: CLC, 9-19-2-110, RR, 9-21-2-85
Total offense: CLC, 229, RR, 193
CLC Individual statistics
Rushing: LaMirande 29-122; Bade 2-(-3)
Passing: Beehler 9-19-2-110
Receiving: Nate Schoenecker 3-37; Trevor Barlow 2-31; Justin Novak 2-21; Hunter 2-19; LaMirande 1-2
TY RUSHMEYER can be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5865.
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