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College football: Minnesota West trimmed by Northland, 19-18

WORTHINGTON -- The Minnesota West Community and Technical College football team doesn't play hand grenades. So close isn't good enough. The Bluejays, whose only victory this year came on a technicality, were hungry to defeat a 3-0 Northland Pione...

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Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Minnesota West linebacker Andrew Sorensen (left) tackles Northland ball carrier James Taylor from behind in Saturday's college football game at Trojan Field in Worthington. West's Tyler Kurrasch (43) trails on the play.

WORTHINGTON -- The Minnesota West Community and Technical College football team doesn’t play hand grenades.

So close isn’t good enough.

The Bluejays, whose only victory this year came on a technicality, were hungry to defeat a 3-0 Northland Pioneers team on King Turkey Day Saturday afternoon.

They almost did, too.

Almost.

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The Pioneers prevailed 19-18, overcoming a 12-7 halftime deficit. West fought back after trailing 19-12, scoring the game’s final touchdown with 4:38 remaining in the third quarter. But the extra point was blocked, leaving the Bluejays a point short.

Neither team found the end zone in the fourth quarter, and the Jays walked off Trojan Field 1-3 -- with their only win the result of a Week Two victory taken away from the Rochester Yellowjackets due to a rules violation.

The Bluejays came ready to play on Saturday. Their defense, as usual, played well enough to win. Their much-maligned offense moved the football, especially in the first half. Receiver Terrell Price, a 5-11, 175 sophomore from Inkster, Mich., caught two touchdown passes from freshman quarterback Francisco Rodriguez and finished with 100 yards receiving on six receptions.

But the Jays were whistled for 17 penalties accounting for 112 yards.

“We’re having a hard time finishing games,” said West head coach Jeff Linder. “I’d say it’s not just one thing -- too many penalties, too many mental errors.”

Even so, the beleaguered Bluejays refused to fold up shop after Northland scored on a three-yard Kevin Evans run with 7:14 remaining in the third quarter. A two-point conversion try failed, but the Pioneers had both a seven-point lead (19-12) and the momentum.

A couple of minutes later, the Pioneers were deep in Minnesota West territory again at the 15-yard line. But on first down, quarterback Peyton Kendrick was intercepted by Jays’ linebacker Andrew Sorensen who rambled all the way to the Pioneers’ 29. Three plays later, Rodriguez found Price on their second TD hookup -- covering 17 yards.

The blocked extra point didn’t seem to matter so much at the time; there was still more than a quarter remaining in the contest.

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Price said he was prepared to have a big game on Saturday.

“Last week I caught a nice pass, and coach told me he could give me more shots. We practiced that all week to take more shots downfield,” Price said. “The line held up a lot better than it did last week. And we’ve got a young quarterback only 18 years old, who took a lot of shots and did a great job. The coaches put us in position to make plays.”

Going into the game, Minnesota West was fully aware that Kendrick was turnover-prone. He entered Saturday’s game having thrown eight interceptions with two fumbles lost. Against a West defense that had already established itself as a ball-hawking group, Kendrick threw four interceptions -- two of them by Sorensen, who until Saturday hadn’t picked off any passes since his sophomore year at Brandon Valley High School in South Dakota.

“We knew they were going to be passing in the red zone,” Sorensen said about his second pick-off.

Linder was asked after the game if he’d considered going for a two-point conversion following the third MW touchdown instead of the point-after. For the game, the Jays were 0-3 on point-after kicks.

“I did,” he said. But he pointed out that his freshman kicker, Adrian product Michael Preuss, had had a good week of practice after joining the football team. Preuss had been concentrating on getting ready for baseball until then. With Preuss, a veteran holder and a good snapper ready, Linder opted to try to knot the score at 19.

Despite the loss, Linder and his players left the field believing their first on-field win is close.

“I’m really not satisfied with (the loss),” said Sorensen. “But we’re in all our games. Now our offense is back together. I think we’ll win some games real soon.”

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“We know what we’re capable of doing,” said Linder. “And it’s just on the crucial times … what’d we do, we fumbled on the three. Those kinds of things. It’s like we’re playing not to screw up rather than playing to function.”

It was early in the second quarter when the Bluejays, already leading 12-7, suffered a mishandled snap from center on a third-and-goal situation from Northland’s two-yard line. They managed to secure the ball, but lost a yard. Then on fourth down a pass fell harmlessly incomplete.

Northland entered the game ranked as the No. 1 defense in the MCAC Western Division. But the Pioneers had their hands full with the Rodriguez-to-Price connection. West scored on the game’s first possession helped greatly by 34- and 36-yard hookups between the two. On a third-and-goal play at the Northland nine, Price caught one in the right corner of the end zone for the score.

West scored again halfway through the first quarter when sophomore defensive back Trey Murdock intercepted a Kendrick pass and returned it 92 yards.

Northland got on the scoreboard less than two minutes after that when Duane Barnes intercepted a floater from Rodriguez and returned it 29 yards to paydirt.

The Pioneers came out strong offensively in the second half, scoring on their first third quarter possession on a five-yard Evans run. Evans scored again in the same period on a three-yard carry. After that, the Bluejay defense stiffened.

Final totals showed West with 33 rushes for 81 yards and 124 yards passing. Northland rushed 45 times for 226 yards and passed for 30.

Evans finished with 183 yards on 27 carries. J’Lonte Cook led West with 52 yards on 10 totes. Kendrick completed just six of 21 passes for 30 yards. Rodriguez completed 10 of 32 for 117.

Tyler Kurrasch was in on 12 tackles and Kenny Reid was in on 11 for West.

Northland 7 0 12 0 -- 19

Minnesota West 12 0 6 0 -- 18


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Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Holding the football in one hand, Minnesota West's J'Lonte Cook turns upfield while Northland's Damien Francis makes an attempt at a tackle Saturday afternoon. West's Travis Standberry (2) wrestles with Northland's Tarik Davis (6) on the play.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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