It has outscored, outgained, and in many instances outplayed its opponents, yet the Central Lakes College football team finds itself with a losing record (1-2) nearly a month into the season.
A last-second field goal defeat in week one, a wild back-and-forth victory in week two, and an overtime loss capped by an interception return the length of the field in week three is a quick summary of the 2007 version of Raiders football.
Looking more closely reveals that wasted opportunities and an inability to close out games are the main culprits in CLC's difficult start.
Head coach Greg Medeck said the team has remained upbeat, knowing that it has been competitive in all three contests.
"We're legitimately two plays away from being 3-0 right now," he said. "It's amazing in this game ... You're running about 150 plays a game and just one or two can be the difference between winning and losing. But no one has handed it to us and I don't envision that happening."
Central Lakes College football player Sam Gallu went in for a tackle. He has picked up 16 on the season. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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Medeck added that the statistics would not seem to suggest a losing record.
"You can go over stats all day long," he said. "The fact is our entire team has got to find a way to close things out."
Last Saturday's game may have been the toughest defeat to swallow as the Raiders fell 20-14 to Vermilion in overtime.
CLC's defense completely shut down the Ironmen after an opening three-play drive led to eight points. From that point on, the Raiders allowed just over 100 total yards.
On offense, CLC ran 70 plays to Vermilion's 49, while racking up nearly 100 more yards of offense. The Raiders also took the turnover battle, four to the Ironmen's five.
But two missed fourth-quarter field goals, along with two interceptions returned for touchdowns, spelled doom for the Raiders.
Medeck said that while Saturday's defeat was a difficult one, the team is still in a decent position three games into the season.
He said the key is to have players on both sides of the ball clicking at the same time.
"We're sitting OK. We feel pretty comfortable about the win we got against Rainy River," he said. "Week one our defense had a chance to close it out. This week our defense played out of their minds and our offense failed to capitalize. Now our entire team has to find a way to come together and win a game."
CLC's biggest string of games begins Sept. 29 when division play opens. Each division win is worth two points in the conference scoring system, compared to one for non-division wins.
Medeck said the fact that his team will get three division games at home, along with the overall parity of the league, gives the Raiders a lot of time to make a playoff push.
"Obviously we're taking this thing one week at a time but as a head coach I look down the road and see the big picture," he said. "The good thing this year is the league parity. Rochester is the only undefeated team. You take them out of the mix, and the other 10 teams in the league are right there. Nobody hasn't won a game. Everyone else has got a loss. So on any given day you don't know what the outcome is going to be."
With plenty of time to make up ground, Medeck said the team's preseason goal of making the postseason has not changed with six games remaining on the schedule.
"That's the goal and that goal is still within reach," he said. "As much as you try to value each and every game, you have to be realistic about the point system and recognize which games are really important and those are yet to come."
TY RUSHMEYER can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5865.
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