College Football: Stopping electric Northland offense goal for Raider defense
The Central Lakes College Raiders will host the Northland Pioneers as the MCAC state playoffs resume at 1:30 p.m. Saturday with a semifinal game at the Findorff Athletic Complex in Brainerd.
Northland (7-2 overall) is the No. 2 seed in the Western Division, while the Raiders (8-1) are the top seed in the East.
In last weekend's quarterfinals, the Eastern Division champion Raiders, who have won 19 of their last 21 games, dispatched fourth-seeded Vermilion 24-8. Sunday, Northland ousted North Dakota State College of Science 17-10 at Thief River Falls.
Northland features an offense averaging 36.8 points and 427.1 yards (344.1 passing) per game. The Pioneers are paced by quarterback Shannon Patrick, who leads the MCAC in completions (257), attempts (428), completion percentage (60.0), yards (3,097) and touchdown passes (30).
Malik Williams and Dakari Highsmith are Patrick's top targets. Williams has caught 67 passes for 924 yards and 11 scores. Highsmith has 63 catches for 683 yards and five TDs.
Defense has not been Northland's forte. The Pioneers are allowing an average of 336.7 yards and 23.9 points per game.
CLC has been solid on both sides of the ball. The Raiders are averaging 337.9 yards and 24.1 points, while allowing an average of just 246.7 yards and 12.7 points per game.
"We're looking forward to the matchup," CLC coach Greg Medeck said. "It should be a good contest between a very dynamic offense (Northland) and a strong defense (CLC). It's one of those rare postseason games that doesn't provide a rematch from the regular season.
"Their quarterback is very good and they have a number of talented offensive contributors that we will have to defend. We have done a good job recently on offense controlling the line of scrimmage and will need to do so again this week in order to have a chance to move on."
CLC running back Nuke Crowell ranks third in the MCAC averaging 81.6 yards rushing. He's third in touchdowns with the Pioneers' Joe Cash—both have scored eight.
In other quarterfinal games last week, Mesabi Range eliminated Rochester 30-19 at Rochester. The Norse, the only team to defeat CLC during the regular season (14-7 Sept. 30), shook off the cold and steady rain in the second half to pull away with three field goals and a key fourth down stop with three minutes remaining. Mesabi will travel to Bottineau, N.D., to face the Dakota College Jacks at noon Saturday.
Dakota College has been rolling since a Week Two loss to Rochester. The Jacks are 7-0 since and have won shootouts (48-39 over Northland) and defensive battles (21-19 over NDSCS). Sunday's 20-9 quarterfinal win over Ridgewater fell in the latter category.
Saturday's winners earn a trip to St. Cloud State University, where they will play for the championship Nov. 12.
Quarterfinals Oct. 28
Central Lakes 24, Vermilion 8
Mesabi Range 30, Rochester 19
Dakota College-Bottineau 20, Ridgewater 9
Northland 17, N.D. State College of Science 10
Semifinals, Saturday, Nov. 4
West No. 2 Northland (7-2) at East No. 1 CLC (8-1) 1:30 p.m.
East No. 2 Mesabi (6-3) at West No. 1 Dakota College (8-1) noon
Championship, Sunday, Nov. 12
At St. Cloud State University, TBA