MW FOOTBALL: Raiders hand Bluejays 2nd straight lossWORTHINGTON — In what was billed on paper as an evenly-matched football game between a pair of solid Minnesota College Athletic Conference Southern Division teams, the Central Lakes Raiders were slightly better able to control both the ball and the clock in a key 21-20 victory over the Minnesota West Bluejays Saturday afternoon at Trojan Field.
By: Lucas Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — In what was billed on paper as an evenly-matched football game between a pair of solid Minnesota College Athletic Conference Southern Division teams, the Central Lakes Raiders were slightly better able to control both the ball and the clock in a key 21-20 victory over the Minnesota West Bluejays Saturday afternoon at Trojan Field.
Central Lakes, which improves to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the division, ran a total of 76 offensive plays and gained 245 yards — effectively winning the time of possession battle and holding off a late second-half charge from Minnesota West (4-2, 0-2).
The Bluejays, who only netted 145 total yards of offense on 59 plays, rallied from a 21-7 deficit with back-to-back touchdowns late in the third quarter and into the fourth period — but a missed extra point after the second straight six-pointer proved to be the difference on the scoreboard at the end of the game.
“I’m proud of the boys, as we played hard and fought all the way to the finish,” Minnesota West head coach Jeff Linder said after the game. “This was a good college football game between two good teams, and it was everything that we expected it to be. It’s obviously a tough loss to swallow, but I am very proud of how we kept on playing and gave ourselves a chance to win once again.”
Rex Johnson (four receptions for 49 yards), Michael Knight (79-yard kickoff return) and Kevin Harris (18 carries for 58 yards) each scored a touchdown for the Bluejays, who only had the ball for about 20 of the 60 minutes of game time.
Bluejays go up 7-0 early on touchdown pass from Gainey to Johnson
Minnesota West started strong, forcing a Central Lakes punt after a three-and-out defensively on the game’s opening possession. The Bluejays then started their first drive with good field position at the Raiders’ 47-yard line.
Harris gained 13 yards on the initial play and carried the ball four more times for short gains on the seven-play series, while Central Lakes committed a trio of off-sides penalties — three of the 24 total flags that were thrown in the game — to help Minnesota West gradually move the ball down the field.
The other two plays were passes, with one falling incomplete and the other resulting in a five-yard touchdown. Greg Gainey (10-for-28, 87 yards) hooked up with Johnson on a short pass in the middle of the end zone to get the Bluejays on the board.
Tyler Smith split the uprights with the extra-point kick, as Minnesota West held an early 7-0 lead with 9:05 showing on the first-quarter clock.
“That was a great way to start the game,” Linder said. “Our defense made some plays and got off the field, while our offense capitalized on a few things to give us a quick touchdown.”
However, Central Lakes countered with an impressive scoring drive of its own. The Raiders marched 87 yards on 16 plays and scored on a four-yard touchdown run by Beau Bellmore (21 carries for 60 yards).
Andrew Leonhardt tacked on the PAT, tying the score at seven points apiece with 2:16 to play.
The score remained 7-7 for the rest of the first half, as neither team really threatened to reach the end zone. The Bluejays’ defense was buoyed by an interception by Knight and a fumble recovery by Jeremy Beckham during the second quarter.
Central Lakes did have an opportunity to score on a desperation pass as time expired, but an interception near the goal line by Minnesota West’s Gerrald Jones sent the teams into halftime deadlocked.
Raiders take 21-7 lead; Bluejays come up short
Central Lakes used a pair of interceptions of its own early in the third quarter to take command of the action somewhat, as Marion Lambright picked off a pass to give the Raiders the ball at their own 40-yard line.
The Raiders were unable to move the ball on their first series of the second half, but they did gain some field position after punting and actually got the ball right back when Matt Mogere came up with an interception at the Bluejays’ 28-yard line.
Three plays later, Andrew Johnson (14-for-35, 141 yards) fired a 25-yard touchdown pass to Carson Wessinger. Leonhardt’s ensuing PAT lifted Central Lakes to a 14-7 advantage with 6:09 to go in the third quarter.
Field position continued to favor the Raiders, as a poor snap on a Bluejays’ punt attempt gave Central Lakes the ball at Minnesota West’s 25-yard line.
Blake Petrich cashed in on the opportunity this time, barreling into the end zone on a six-yard touchdown run (Leonhardt PAT good) to extend the Raiders’ lead to 21-7 with 2:25 on the clock.
“Some things went our way and some things didn’t,” Linder said. “But I told the guys that there was a lot of time left and to have some fun playing the game.”
Minnesota West responded to the challenge and worked its way back immediately. Knight returned the ensuing kickoff 79 yards for an electrifying touchdown, as he was nearly stopped along the right sideline after about 10 yards and then broke across the field to an open area down the left sideline all the way to the end zone.
Smith’s PAT made it 21-14 at the 2:05 mark, as the Bluejays were right back in it.
DeAndre Ulmer kept the momentum swinging toward Minnesota West, intercepting a pass on the follow-up drive and giving the Bluejays the ball at the Raiders’ 29-yard line.
Harris then capped an eight-play drive — which included a key 15-yard pass from Gainey to Johnson on third-and-13 — with a bruising two-yard touchdown plunge to make it 21-20 with 11:54 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Smith’s PAT attempt, though, sailed wide to the left — and the Raiders clung to a one-point lead, which they made stand with superior defense and special teams play the rest of the game.
Central Lakes pinned Minnesota West at its own six-yard line with a punt and never let the Bluejays cross midfield again.
Minnesota West later started from its own 15-yard line and tried to convert on a fourth-and-one play from the 34, but Central Lakes stopped a fake-punt run short of the first-down marker and then got one more defensive stop in the closing seconds to hang on for a 21-20 win.
“Our defense did a great job and helped keep us in the game,” Linder said. “We just were not able to move the ball like we wanted to at times and never got into any kind of flow offensively. It’s disappointing, but we’ll bounce back and be ready to go next week.”
Minnesota West plays again at home Saturday, taking on Fergus Falls for Homecoming. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
CL 7 0 14 0 — 21
MW 7 0 7 6 — 20