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College football: Minnesota West gets off to winning start in 2018

BY DOUG WOLTER

BRAINERD -- Quarterback Andrew Ortiz threw four touchdown passes, including three to Reginald Colson III, and the Minnesota West Community and Technical College football team won its season opener 36-12 over host Central Lakes on Saturday.

Ortiz, a Division I transfer from UTEP, and Colson, who led the nation in yards per game last season, made an immediate connection in the Bluejays’ first game of 2018. Ortiz, who also rushed for 47 yards on 11 carries, completed 13 of 23 passes for 252 yards, and Colson turned all three of his receptions -- for 24, 37 and 9 yards -- into scores.

All in all, it was an impressive showing for the Jays against a Central Lakes team that won the Eastern Division last season and was rated No. 1 in its division this year according to a preseason coaches’ poll.

“We had a lot of big things happening,” said Minnesota West head coach Jeff Linder, who changed things up this year by arriving on the Brainerd field earlier than had been traditional. In the past, said the coach, West usually came out flat in Brainerd for the first halves of games. But not this time.

“It’s a big win for us after a long (5-hour) road trip against the No. 1 team in the East,” Linder said. “We’ve got some things to work on, no doubt. But this is a full team effort. I’m really proud of our guys.”

Minnesota West’s first score came at the end of a 76-yard drive and culminated in a 24-yard pass to Colson III. The next TD was another Ortiz-to-Colson hookup, from 37 yards away.

Ortiz found Gary Smith III on an 85-yard touchdown strike for the third score. Caleb Tinklenberg booted a 20-yard field goal and Steven Lucas Jr. scooped up a fumble recovery and scored from 25 yards away, still in the first half.

West led 30-0 at halftime after outscoring Central Lakes 24-0 in the second quarter. It became a 36-0 lead in the third quarter on a 9-yard strike from Ortiz to Colson.

Central Lakes’ TDs came on a Jake Franklin 2-yard run and a 10-yard pass from Franklin to Zach Severtson.

The final stat sheet showed the two teams fairly equal in total yardage, with the Raiders accounting for 397 yards and the Bluejays with 383. Central Lakes actually had more first downs, 23-16.

Linder said the Jays “came out kind of flat” in the second half and the defense spent a lot of time on the field. They made the plays when they counted, though.

“We just had some big stops by our defense. Our defense did a good job. They did the bend, but they didn’t break,” Linder maintained.

Ortiz proved to be “as advertised” at quarterback. Quick, always active, keeping his eyes downfield but ready to run to keep the chains moving.

Linder had expressed some reservations about his team’s ability to run the football, but running was not a problem on Saturday. The Bluejays rushed 29 times for 131 yards against the Raiders, with Khaileb Desmond leading the way with 60 yards on 10 attempts.

Minnesota West will travel next Saturday to Mesabi Range.

Minnesota West 6 24 6 0 -- 36

Central Lakes 0 0 6 6 -- 12

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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