College football: Bluejays can't slow down Central Lakes
BRAINERD —These last two Minnesota West northern road trips have been doozies.
The Jays were coming off their biggest victory of the year, a 26-6 home victory against a strong Ridgewater rival. But on Saturday, they couldn’t control the Raider offense led by quarterback Andrew Johnson as Central Lakes roared back from a 27-14 halftime deficit.
Johnson, the reining Minnesota College Athletic Conference Southern Division Offensive Player of the Week, completed 19 of 35 passes Saturday, with five touchdowns. Minnesota West led the Raiders 27-7 in the second quarter. But the Raiders outscored the Jays 43-12 the rest of the way, including 36-12 in the second half.
With the loss, West falls to 4-2 on the season and 1-1 in the Southern Division. Central Lakes rises to 5-1 and 2-1.
“They made adjustments to what we were doing to them,” said West head coach Jeff Linder on Sunday. “We’re not making any excuses. But I think, with the rain, it made it difficult for our defense to stay with their receivers.”
The field was wet and a misty air permeated the grounds during most of the contest. Later, in the second half, rain fell steadily. The Bluejays’ vaunted pressure defense gave Johnson some problems in the first half, but the pressure began to grow less effective as the game wore on — and as the Raiders put together longer drives to keep the Jays’ defense from getting some much-needed rest. West was able to mix up its coverages in the first half, but Central Lakes changed their routes to compensate.
“It’s just a chess game out there. Each coach is moving their pieces around to give them the best chance to win the game,” Linder said. “Our defense was on the field longer than it needed to be just because they were able to sustain some long drives.”
Central Lakes opened the scoring in the first quarter on a one-yard Johnson keeper, but Minnesota West had the next four scores.
Running back Reuben Linton II began the onslaught with a 28-yard first quarter touchdown romp. Fellow running back Zach Norman followed in the second frame with a two-yard touchdown run. Linton found paydirt again on a one-yard TD carry and quarterback Logan Massop scored again before the half on a one-yard keeper.
Central Lakes ended 27 points of uninterrupted Minnesota West scoring shortly before the half with a 10-yard Johnson pass to Shaquille Petersen.
Then in the third quarter the Raiders went on an offensive spurt of their own. Finishing off a 10-play, 78-yard drive, Johnson hit Sam Moriarty on a 14-yard TD strike. Athen Ashton scored less than three minutes later on a 21-yard carry and Johnson found Brandon Kiel for a 37-yard scoring pass. A two-point conversion pass from Kiel to Petersen made the score 36-27.
Late in the third quarter, Minnesota West finished a six-play, 70-yard drive with a one-yard Massop carry into the end zone. Tyler Smith’s extra point was blocked by Central Lakes’ Logan Novak — the second time Novak blocked a Smith PAT on Saturday — but the Jays had pulled close, 36-33.
Central Lakes lengthened its lead, however, early in the fourth quarter when Johnson passed 15 yards to Moriarty for another score.
West answered that tally as backup quarterback Colin Brons passed 29 yards to Neil Ross for a touchdown. The normally sure-footed Smith missed the extra point, and the score was 43-39.
A 15-yard Johnson pass to Allen Allman completed the scoring.
Throughout the season, with Linton and Norman leading the way, Minnesota West’s rushing game has been its bread-and-butter while the passing game has been inconsistent. But in both Bluejay losses, defenses have kept the running game in check. On Saturday, the Jays rushed 29 times for 89 net yards, with Linton accounting for 48 yards on nine carries and Norman 30 yards on 10 totes.
The aerial game had its moments. As a team, West connected on 15 of 36 passes for 199 yards. Massop hit on 11 of 28 passes for 141 yards and two interceptions, and Brons was 4-for-8 for 58 yards.
Central Lakes had 24 first downs to Minnesota West’s 17. The Raiders were penalized 13 times for 85 yards compared to West’s 13 for 78.
In other weekend games, Northland beat Vermilion 41-12, Ridgewater edged Fond du Lac 15-12 and Rochester blistered Minnesota State-Fergus Falls 91-7. On Thursday, Mesabi Range topped Itasca 31-22.
Minnesota West will host unbeaten Rochester Saturday beginning at 1:30 p.m.
MWest 7 20 6 6 — 39
CLakes 7 7 22 14 — 50