With less than a minute left to go in Saturday's much anticipated matchup between No. 13 Central Lakes College and No. 16 Rochester the game came down to fourth and a yard.
With the ball at CLC 44-yard line, the logical step seemed to be punt the ball away and pin Rochester deep in its territory.
That thought never crossed the Raiders' minds.
"We did not want to give them the ball back with their playmakers like Anthony Aker," CLC quarterback Mike Beehler said. "We had that half of a yard to go and I told them we could get it."
Lawson Starr of Central Lakes College returned a blocked field goal 80 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter of the Raiders' 26-19 victory over Rochester. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Beehler got more than the one yard, and the Raiders were able to run out the final seconds and celebrate a 26-19 victory over the Yellow Jackets.
The Raiders raised their overall record to 5-0 and also moved up one game in the lead in the South Division.
The win was also huge for the Raiders' program as Rochester held a 16-0 series edge over CLC. The Yellowjackets also beat CLC 39-18 victory in the state title game last year.
"All of us sophomores were saying this week that we want revenge," said Beehler. "They got us twice last year. We wanted to do it for the entire town. We have been working hard this entire season for this game."
Beehler did more than his share to get the win. He was 18 of 30 passing for 232 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 33 yards on 13 carries.
Dennis Taute came into the game as the South's No. 2 rusher. However, the Raiders were going up against the South's top defense and it showed as Taute rushed for 38 yards on 15 carries but had an 11-yard touchdown run that sealed the victory.
The Raiders came in with the top-ranked offense in the division and in the first quarter the teams combined for 23 points.
CLC opened the scoring on a five-play, 73-yard drive. Beehler capped off the drive with a 12-yard pass to Justin Novak to give the Raiders a 7-0 lead. Novak had another strong day with seven catches for 85 yards.
The lead was short-lived as Rochester's Jauhem Byrd returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards to the Raiders' 10.
Quarterback Mike Beehler (10) passed for 232 yards and two touchdowns for the Central Lakes College Raiders. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"One of the strongest parts of their game is their return game," CLC coach Greg Medeck said. "They have some really good return guys."
The Yellowjackets had to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Michael Kusnierz.
The Raiders came right back and put another touchdown on the board, ending a 10-play drive with a 43-yard touchdown pass from Beehler to Alex Leach and a 14-3 lead.
"I went over all my reads, we focused on the running back as an option because they kind of forgot about them," Beehler said. "I found Alex in the flat and he did the rest."
Rochester put the next points on the board with a 12-yard scoring pass from Stephen Owens to Anthony Aker to close the lead to 14-9.
With 6:52 left in the first half, the Yellowjackets drove deep into Raiders territory and sent out Kusnierz for a chip-shot field goal from the 8. In one of the game's key moments, Lawson Starr rushed in from the right side and got a clear shot at Kusnierz's kick. Starr blocked the kick, scooped it up and ran 80 yards for a touchdown to put the Raiders up 20-9.
"Lawson made one heck of an individual play but there were a lot of guys at the ball," said Medeck. "I don't know how many guys you saw leading his caravan down the field but that is a testament to our guys and their teamwork and play out there."
Rochester kicked a field goal before halftime and in the third quarter the momentum started to go its way. CLC had a couple of three and outs, but the stout Raiders defense was doing its job, keeping Rochester out of the red zone.
Raiders 26, Rochester 19
The key: Mike Beehler passed for two touchdowns
Overall: CLC 5-0, Roch 3-2
Next: Fergus Falls at CLC at noon Saturday.
Late in the third quarter, CLC had a key drive that put the game away. Starting on their 20, the Raiders marched 80 yards, all on the ground, with Taute finishing the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run.
"It was huge in the third quarter," Beehler said. "We were starting to lose momentum and they were starting to gain it. I told the line we had to start picking it up and run the ball."
Rochester got a late score from Aker to pull the Yellowjackets within a touchdown. The Raiders got the key first down on Beehler's burst and were able to run out the clock.
Medeck said the victory was huge for the program.
"That was something that we knew we could do but have not been able to do over the years," he said. "It's something that every guy who has been through this program has had his sights on this goal.
"You like to have bigger goals than just beating one team but this is a pretty big one. It's a huge monkey off our back. It sets us up as the division leader. Our goal is to continue our season and on the progress we made last year."
Rochester 9 3 0 7 - 19
Central Lakes 14 6 6 0 - 26
CLC-Justin Novak 12 pass from Mike Beehler (Josh Ledin kick) 12:25
RCH-Michael Kusnierz 24 FG, 10:22
CLC-Alex Leach 43 pass from Beehler (Ledin kick) 5:56
RCH-Anthony Aker 12 pass from Stephen Owens (kick failed) 2:24
CLC-Lawson Starr 80 return of blocked field goal (kick failed) 2:09
RCH-Kusnierz 35 FG, 1:30
CLC-Dennis Taut 11 run (conversion failed) 7:26
RCH-Keyshay Davis 18 pass from Owens (Kusnier kick) 2:23
Rushes-yards: RCH 24-104, CLC 23-74
Pass comp-att-int-yards: RCH 16-31-0-169, CLC 18-31-1-232
Total offense: RCH 273, CLC 306
Rushing: CLC Dennis Taute 15-38, Mike Beehler 13-33, Alex Leach 3-4, Alex Bade 2-(1), RCH Will Christopherson 16-75
Passing: CLC Mike Beehler 18-30-1-232, Alex Leach 0-1-0-0, RCH Stephen Owens 16-31-0-169
Receiving: CLC Kevin Beehler 1-4, Justin Novak 7-85, Tyler Kitzman 2-60, Tim Phonvidone 4-28, Leach 3-49, Taute 1-13, Dustin Kramer 2-6, RCH Anthony Aker 6-70
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.