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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Raiders hope to be included in new playoff format

The 2011 football season was a successful one in many ways for the Central Lakes College Raiders.

They finished with a 7-2 record and earned a spot in the Valley of the Sun Bowl. With a stifling defense, led by Frank Mays, and an offense that saw quarterback Carson Wessinger lead the league in completion percentage (54.8 percent), the pieces were in place.

However, the axe fell literally on the Raiders in the last regular-season game in their annual matchup with Ridgewater for “The Axe”. The game held more significance as it was essentially a play-in game for the teams to get into the state playoffs. Plagued all day by turnovers, CLC fell by 26-14 and saw its season come to a crashing halt.

With some changes in the playoff format, the Raiders would not be sitting at home in the 2012 season as an extra playoff round has been added. This year, eight teams will make the playoffs instead of four. It is not one that head coach Greg Medeck fought for, but he is relieved to see it happen.

“Last year we finished with a 7-2 record, second-best in the state and in the top 15 in the nation, and finished out of our own conference tournament,” Medeck said. “(The new format) actually came from some of the Northern Division teams that have been right around .500 but out of the playoffs for the last 10-15 years, saying let’s do something to change this, it just doesn’t work anymore.

“I think it’s great and we’re looking forward to playing our best down the stretch and getting in when the postseason comes.”

Even though last year’s team failed to qualify for the state playoffs, Medeck was relieved that an invitation came for the Valley of the Sun Bowl. Iowa Central Community College beat the Raiders 442-12 in the bowl game.

“There wasn’t an expectation for us but I think we put together a good body of work over the course of the season and given some of the adversity and injuries that we faced, I thought that the team showed a lot of resiliency,” Medeck said. “We continued to progress and get better and I thought we were playing some really good football at the end of the season.

“It was very disheartening to see the season come crashing down and I got great relief that their was still a bowl committee that was willing to give us a chance at post-season play. We didn’t have a great result, but it was a great chance at redemption.”

The 2012 team is looking for great things, and it comes from a strong core of returning players, along with a crop of new talent that promises to provide plenty of excitement for Raider fans.

Medeck is pleased to have Jared Hoemberg, Peter Stenger, Jordan Bialke and Riley Kampsen as captains. All four, Medeck said, have shown outstanding leadership qualities in practice and have stood out.

“We are blessed with great depth with 25 returning players. In this league, 25 returners is a great success to have come back,” Medeck said. “We have good leadership skills and have a lot of guys that are stepping up and taking on big-time roles that have been through the battle over the last year, and know what the expectation of the program is, and what we need to do to be successful.

“The young guys we have in here are going to be a great complement to our sophomores and so far we have been pleased with the way we have jelled and learned a lot and put a lot on their shoulders to get better over the course of (training) camp.”

Most of the Raiders’ depth is on defense, but Medeck also has a sense of excitement about what his offense can do. The scheme will change a bit with new offensive coordinator Neil Linhart taking over for Carl Larson, who moved out of state in the offseason.

“With a new offensive system in place with coach Linhart, and a lot of young faces on the offense, I am pleased with the development of that group as well,” Medeck said.

Last season was one of trial and error for CLC, as the Raiders were beset by injuries to their top two starters. This year they have four quarterbacks competing, including three who return from 2011. Wessinger completed 91 of 166 attempts for 1,043 yards and 14 TDs with 13 interceptions.

“This year we are four-deep at the quarterback spot with three guys that started for us last year so there has been a good competition. We have nine guys on our roster who played high school quarterback,” Medeck said.

The Raiders kick off their 2012 campaign against Northland at Thief River Falls on Thursday night. Medeck knows his team will have a challenge waiting for it.

“We have a ton of respect for our opponent in week one going to their place with the way they put together the second half of their season,” Medeck said. “We had a nice, successful outcome in week two when we played them last year. Then, all of a sudden, they are playing in the state championship game and we are sitting at home. They put together a nice run.”

This year’s CLC team has goals of a state championship and individual success but Medeck also wants his players to take away from CLC more than their football experience.

“I think the two main principles that we try to build in our program is experience and opportunity,” he said. “I want to do everything I can to provide a fantastic football experience for the guys, which is going to stem from being successful and developing players and creating opportunities for them. It might come in a Division I scholarship, or it may come in the opportunity to play at an NAIA school, or at the Division II level.

“You may also have a chance to get your degree and get in the work force. We are trying to mentor young men as athletes, but also as a person.”

Raiders roster

No., name, position, hometown, year

2, Jared Hoemberg, DB, Bertha-Hewitt, SO

3, Anthony Shelman, WR, Indianapolis, FR

4, Shaquille Richardson, WR, St. Thomas, VI, FR

5, Matthew Scott, WR, Minneapolis, FR

6, Austin Manzey, LB, Watertown, S.D., SO

7, Skyler Shearer, QB, Denver, SO

8, Peter Stenger, DL, Eden Valley, SO

9, Paul Lake, WR, Lake Havasu, AZ, SO

10, Taz Seibert, RB, Norwood-Young America, SO

11, Brandon Kiel, QB, Milaca, FR

12, Carson Wessinger, QB, St. John, VI, SO

13, Blake Petrich, RB, Staples, FR

14, Chris Maholick, DB, Mountain Home, ID, FR

15, Marion Lambright, DB, Whitehall, WI, SO

18, Andrew Johnson, QB, St. Paul, FR

19, Shanoi Richardson, DB, St. Thomas, VI, SO

20, David Husband, DB, St. Thomas, VI, SO

21, Beau Bellmore, RB, DePere, WI, SO

22, Matt Mogere, DB, Monticello, SO

23, Tre Deadwiler, DB, Madison, WI, FR

24, Logan Baker, RB, Detroit Lakes, SO

25, Joshua Orr, DB, Buffalo, FR

27, Danny Lynch, DB, Rockford, FR

28, Tanner Ristau, LB, Preston, FR

31, Calvin Belfrey, DB, Minneapolis, SO

32, Erik Chouinard, LB, North Branch, SO

33, Josh Green, RB, Rockford, FR

34, Alex Galvan, LB, Rochester, FR

35, Brandon Tulenchik, LB, Pequot Lakes, SO

41, Dacotah Thompson, DL, Hutchinson, FR

43, Patrick Bock, New Ulm, FR

44, Jordan Bialke, LB, Foley, SO

45, Celestino White, DL, St. Thomas, VI, SO

47, Beau Stough, RB, Redwood Valley, FR

50, Billy Andrus, LB, Nevis, SO

52, Cedric Davis, LB, White Bear Lake, FR

55, Nathaniel Rutz, LB, Little Falls, SO

56, Thomas Armstrong, OL, Omaha, Neb., FR

60, Bo Perish, OL, Browerville, SO

66, Curtis Brown, OL, Hendersonville, TN, FR

67, Luke Landecker, OL, Pequot Lakes, FR

69, Dilan Gastecki, DL, Little Falls, SO

70, Riley Kampsen, OL, Paynesville, SO

71, Charles Kassulker, OL, Brainerd, SO

74, Ryan Cortes, DL, DePere, WI, SO

75, Brandon Zapzalka, DL, Little Falls, FR

77, Anthony Moss, OL, Big Lake, FR

78, Tyler O’Brien, OL, Staples, FR

79, Matt VonBerge, OL, Hutchinson, FR

80, Bill Holder, WR, Coon Rapids, FR

81, Michael Sparish, TE, St. Paul, FR

83, Andrew Leonhardt, K, Norwood-Young America, FR

84, Trey Thompson, WR, Parkers Prairie, FR

85, Neil Vierzba, WR, St. Cloud, FR

88, Steven Wroblewski, WR, Denver, FR