West's football game with Vermilion canceled; tentative game with Dakota State JV scheduled (UPDATED)
It had already been a strange and wacky football year for the Minnesota West Community and Technical College Bluejays before Wednesday happened.
WORTHINGTON -- It had already been a strange and wacky football year for the Minnesota West Community and Technical College Bluejays before Wednesday happened.
That was the day head coach Jeff Linder was informed that the team’s scheduled Saturday game with Vermilion was canceled.
The Oct. 1 contest would have been just the second regular season home game the Bluejays would have thus far into the 2022 campaign. They played their first three games on the road and lost them all prior to falling 29-7 on the road again in Rochester last Saturday. They won their only home game 21-8 on Sept. 17 against Central Lakes. They are scheduled to conclude their regular season slate on Oct. 15 at home against MState-Fergus Falls.
The Vermilion game was to conclude Homecoming Week for the two-year school, and obviously the Bluejays -- who haven’t had much to cheer about at least until now -- were looking forward to another home game and a chance to reroute their fortunes.
On Thursday, Linder attempted to get another game scheduled with Dakota State JV, a scheme that was successful -- at least tentatively. The Madison, S.D., school is scheduled to play Sunday, Oct. 9, at Trojan Field in Worthington. Barring a last-minute cancellation, the two teams will kick off at noon.
Vermilion has had an even rockier football season than Minnesota West this fall. The Ironmen are 0-3 with losses 55-0 to Mesabi Range, 53-6 to MState-Fergus Falls and 37-6 to North Dakota State College of Science. They had to cancel the game with Minnesota West at least partially due to injuries -- especially to their offensive and defensive lines. Officials there are still hoping they can recover enough to play the next contest listed on their schedule.
Minnesota West thus wins the Vermilion game by forfeit, technically moving its record to 2-4.
That’s not, of course, the record Linder and the Bluejays had hoped for at this point. Armed with many talented second-year players, especially in the skill positions, the Jays’ preseason hopes aimed much higher. But inconsistency has plagued the team. There have been too many penalties at inopportune times. The run game on offense has not clicked, and the defense has given up too many big plays. Injuries also hurt.
But Linder said players still believe in themselves. The Vermilion news was obviously a downer because the team was very much looking forward to a chance to bounce back in front of a home crowd.
However, optimism still exists.
“Camp has been real good. They know they’re talented enough to win. But we didn’t, because we didn’t execute,” Linder said.
In practice, the West coaching staff has worked to insert “fun” back into the game.
“Our mindset is a little more positive again,” he said on Thursday. “I’m sure, deep down, they’re a little down and frustrated about those games we didn’t win. I was hoping after the Central Lakes game we were starting to figure it out. Defensively, we kind of did. But offensively we didn’t figure it out at all.”
Linder added: “We need to remind ourselves that we’re supposed to have fun. And fun breeds energy, and energy breeds wins.”
Minnesota West’s final regular season game against MState-Fergus Falls should be a huge test for the white and blue. Fergus Falls stands atop the Minnesota College Athletic Conference with a 5-0 record. The Spartans’ triumphs include victories over Dakota State JV 37-0, Central Lakes 49-7, NDSCS 35-29, Vermilion 53-6 and Nassau Community College of New York 40-36.