GRAND RAPIDS -- The offense struggled mightily and the defense tired, and the Minnesota West Community and Technical College football team was overrun Saturday by an outstanding Itasca Vikings outfit, 64-0.
The statistics were brutal. The Vikings rolled up 35 first downs and the Bluejays had only eight. They gained 300 yards rushing on 48 attempts while holding West to a minus-27 on 26 attempts. They completed 26 of 42 passes for 351 yards while West completed just six of 21 for nine net yards, with three interceptions.
Itasca won time of possession 88 minutes to 32, winning despite committing 19 penalties for a total of 227 yards. West was penalized five times for 35 yards.
Minnesota West is now 2-4 in division play and 2-5 overall. The team’s final regular season game is Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Worthington against MState-Fergus Falls (3-3 in divisional competition), in what will be a rematch. Fergus Falls defeated the Jays 43-18 in the first game of the season, at Fergus Falls.
In their final regular season game, the Bluejays will be fighting for seeding in the playoffs. All eight division teams will compete in the post-season; there appears to be a small chance West can get a home game in the first playoff round.
The Vikings, ranked No. 4 nationally, appears to deserve their ranking, Minnesota West head coach Jeff Linder said on Sunday morning.
"They out-played us. They have really good defense, and they're strong and tough," he said.
The Vikings attack on defense, and their attacking style severely disrupted the West passing game on Saturday. But the visitors only trailed 17-0 at halftime and thought they still had a chance to pull out a victory. The Bluejay defense held strong for a while, but they tired after being on the field for so long.
"We just couldn't put together anything on offense," Linder said.
The Vikings’ Kevin Sawyer finished with 151 yards rushing on 20 carries and quarterback Teon Gardner completed 17 of 27 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown. Another Itasca quarterback, Chris Beard, completed nine of 15 for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
Throughout most of the season, Minnesota West’s running game had been sporadic at best. In Week Five the Jays clicked on the ground in a thrilling 21-17 upset of nationally-ranked Rochester at Worthington’s Trojan Field. But it ran aground last week in a 24-14 loss to Vermilion, then went nowhere against Itasca. The Bluejays’ top runner, Rashard Anderson, was held to 22 yards on 12 carries Saturday.
As a passer, West’s Willard Holm threw up some pretty good statistics at times this year. But on Saturday, he completed just six of 21. Tight end Tommy Lais, a Worthington High School graduate, caught three of them for 14 yards.
Minnesota West 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Itasca 0 17 27 20 -- 64