College football playoffs: West can't keep up with Central Lakes
BRAINERD — This time, there was no comeback necessary for the Central Lakes Raiders.
This time, it was the Bluejays who needed a second half comeback. They didn’t get it, and Central Lakes won, 55-26.
A prolific Central Lakes team led by the top-rated quarterback in the Southern Division, Andrew Johnson, used balance and a stingy run defense to beat the visiting Jays a second time. Johnson, whose passing led the second-half comeback against West in the first meeting, completed 17 of 31 passes Saturday for 198 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for two scores.
The Bluejays, who achieved impressive success with their running game through the 2013 campaign, could muster just 29 net yards against the Raiders defense on 24 carries. Sophomore sensation Reuben Linton II was held in check, with 69 yards on 11 carries.
For the second straight game, Minnesota West moved the football through the air with sophomore quarterback Logan Massop slinging aerials liberally. Massop completed 26 of 46 attempts on Saturday for 294 yards but he was intercepted four times. The Jays also surrendered five sacks for 44 yards.
In the end, the Jays coughed up the football six times altogether (they also lost two fumbles). A kickoff return was fumbled in the second half, further sabotaging their comeback efforts.
“Execution (wasn’t there),” said head coach Jeff Linder. “Too many turnovers. Just a bunch of miscues. You can’t win a football game doing that. … It was just one thing after another. We just did a poor job of execution. And poor tackling, too.”
One week after upsetting unbeaten Rochester, the state’s top-ranked two-year program, 32-24 at home, the Bluejays are out of the playoffs and finished for the season. Their record is 6-3.
Central Lakes, at 8-1, moves on.
The Raiders moved quickly to start Saturday’s game, scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter. The first came on a 12-yard Johnson pass to Steve Wroblewski and the second came on a nine-yard Johnson touchdown run.
Central Lakes moved to an 18-0 lead in the second frame on a five-yard TD run by Taz Seibert. Johnson hit Brandon Kiel on a 30-yard TD strike for the next score, and still in the second quarter the Raiders roared to a 32-0 lead when a Massop pass was intercepted by Josh Mantel and returned 41 yards into the end zone.
West put some points on the board in the second quarter when Massop passed 11 yards to Elliott Oldham for a score. But even with that, the Jays’ second-half comeback needs were great. They trailed 32-6 at intermission.
Central Lakes further complicated West’s task when it scored the first TD of the third quarter on a seven-yard Johnson keeper. West answered with a one-yard touchdown carry from Mychal Sheridan, but Central Lakes got it right back in the fourth quarter on a 13-yard Johnson pass to Brandon Kiel.
Minnesota West scored again as Massop passed 12 yards to Oldham. Later, he connected with Zelius Morrow on a five-yard score, but on the conversion his pass was intercepted by the Raiders’ Devrin House and returned all the way in the other direction for two points.
Central Lakes finished off the scoring late in the fourth quarter on a 55-yard run by Blake Petrich.
Final totals showed Central Lakes with 28 first downs compared to Minnesota West’s 17. The Raiders rushed 45 times for 181 yards to West’s net of 29. Central Lakes passed for 200. West passed for 294. The Raiders accumulated just 25 yards of penalties on three infractions. West was penalized 14 times for 154 yards.
Though Linton — who earned honors as the national offensive player of the week earlier this season —couldn’t break free in the run game, he caught nine passes for 120 yards.
The Jays’ outstanding sophomore linebacker, Cha’Ron Thompson, had six unassisted tackles and five assists for the Bluejays. Donovan Jackson had six unassisted tackles. Dylan Hart had four unassisted and eight assists. Matt Shively had three unassisted and five assisted, with an interception.
But whatever the Bluejays tried offensively or defensively against the Raiders on Saturday, it wasn’t enough to produce a win.
“Sports is a roller-coaster ride sometimes,” said Linder. “It’s just a tough way to end the year, especially on the road. I’m proud of my sophomores and all the hard effort all through the years.”
MWest 0 6 8 12 — 26
Central Lakes 12 20 7 16 — 55