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Bluejays bounce back, beat Mesabi Range 28-7

Saddled with an 0-2 record and unhappy with themselves after a flat performance last week in their home opener, the Minnesota West Community and Technical College football team demonstrated its intention to be a good football team Saturday with a solid 28-7 home victory against the Mesabi Range Norsemen.

091121 N DG Minnesota West vs Mesabi Range College S1 .jpg
Minnesota West offensive lineman Scot Edwards (74) holds the door open as Bluejays running back Rashard Anderson (26) drives in for the first touchdown of the game Saturday morning with visiting Mesabi Range College. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Saddled with an 0-2 record and unhappy with themselves after a flat performance last week in their home opener, the Minnesota West Community and Technical College football team demonstrated its intention to be a good football team Saturday with a solid 28-7 home victory against the Mesabi Range Norsemen.

Head coach Jeff Linder and the Bluejays made a checklist of things they wanted to accomplish, and they accomplished almost all of their goals.

After a poor offensive performance the previous weekend against North Dakota State College of Science, they wanted to come out attacking in the first quarter. There were defensive goals as well.

“I set a turnover goal of at least two for the defense, and I told the offense that it was time to do their part for the team. They needed to step up, and they did,” said Linder.

West put a safety on the scoreboard when, after the Norsemen were forced to punt deep in their own territory after going three and out on the first possession of the game, the snap sailed over the head of the punter and out of the end zone.

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On their second possession of the first quarter, the Bluejays went to work from their own 42-yard line. Quarterback Willard Holm, in his first start of the season, covered 17 yards on a first down run. He converted two nifty pass plays -- a 13-yard strike to Tommy Lais and a 24-yard pass to Ian Stamer -- which gave West a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line. On the next play, running back Rashard Anderson scored.

Mike Peralta converted the extra point and with 9:08 remaining in the first quarter, West’s lead was 9-0.

Mesabi Range struck back just two minutes later, however, as Tareq Shaw found Montrelis Wilson on a short pass in the flat. Wilson broke tackles on the way to a 37-yard score.

With just five seconds remaining till halftime, West got a field goal from Peralta from 31 yards out.

On the Norsemen’s first drive of the third quarter, they were stopped short at West’s 10-yard line on downs. Later in the third quarter they started another drive, but it was squelched by a Kendrick Gordon interception.

Minnesota West then went on an impressive drive, helped by an 18-yard Anderson run, a 15-yard pass to Stamer on a third-and-six play, and a 17-yard run by Anderson. Holm’s 15-yard run moments later gave West a first-and-goal at the three. A 5-yard scoring pass to Stamer was negated by a penalty, but the Bluejays scored moments later anyway as Holm found Lais over the middle in the back of the end zone for a 15-yard TD strike. Lais also caught the conversion, and with 4:55 left in the third, West assumed a comfortable 20-7 lead.

“I was running a post,” said Lais, a 2021 Worthington High School graduate and son of the Trojans head football coach, Geno Lais. “They had the middle of the field open. Will did a good job putting the ball where it needed to be.”

After that, whenever the Rangers threatened, the Bluejay defense held. The final nail in Mesabi Range’s coffin came with 3:12 remaining in the fourth quarter as LaRontay Standard stepped in front of a pass and returned it 49 yards for a pick-six. Bailey Cowell passed for the 2-point conversion.

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West had four interceptions overall -- one each by Standard, Gordon, Tate Gaul and Ke’untay Felton. Offensively, the Jays converted 19 first downs and gained 93 yards rushing on 30 carries while completing 18 of 40 passes for 202 yards and two interceptions. Mesabi Range had just 264 total yards.

Stamer caught five passes for 68 yards, Cowell caught four for 56, and Lais caught five for 46.

After the game, Lais said the aggressive offensive mindset put the whole team in the right place.

“This week we all just came together as a team,” he explained. “When we start connecting, we’re a dangerous team. The last two weeks we haven’t been putting much up right away. The coaches said we gotta come out firing, and I think we did that pretty good. … We all brought energy today. We were just ready to play.”

West’s defense has been pretty good so far -- when it doesn’t have to spend too much time on the field.

“And that’s why I told our offense they’ve gotta do their part,” said Linder. “If we can keep our defense fresh, we can play with anybody.”

Mesabi Range 7 0 0 0 -- 7

Minnesota West 9 3 8 8 -- 28

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