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COLLEGE FOOTBALL After long layoff, CLC heading to postseason

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sports Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

Maybe Greg Medeck and the Central Lakes College Raiders should consider taking time off more often.

The Raiders haven’t played since Oct. 22 when they lost to Ridgewater 26-14 in the final game of the regular season, a defeat that knocked them out of the state playoffs.

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Since that game CLC has moved up to No. 15 in the NJCAA rankings and its 7-2 record was attractive enough to earn a bid to the Graphic Edge Bowl on Sunday at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Medeck conceded that when the regular season ended he didn’t think a bowl game was a “realistic shot for us.”

“But the more things played out across the country in the NJCAA, and within our conference, and the more we thought about it, we thought something might happen,” he said.

“Fortunately for us we got invited to compete.

“I’m excited. What a pleasure it will be to be with these guys for a couple more weeks and maybe end our season on a higher note than we did a few weeks ago.”

CLC is in its second week of practice after accepting the bid. Medeck said the time off has been beneficial.

“Some of the little nagging injuries we’ve had all year it’s allowed them to melt away a little bit,” he said. “We have a week under us, and one more week to go.”

As of Monday, Medeck said, “We’ve been lucky enough to go outside and do everything we’ve wanted to do in terms of prep, get healed up and be prepared to hopefully have a successful outcome Sunday.”

CLC plays the Tritons of Iowa Central Community College, which hopes to extend the nation’s longest bowl win streak to six. Iowa Central (5-4 overall) unleashes one of the NJCAA’s top rushing attacks, led by freshman Jontel Clayton, who averages 153 yards a game (second in the nation), and has scored 15 touchdowns (fourth). The Tritons rank third nationally in rushing offense (271 yards per game).

CLC’s defense more than likely is going to decide the outcome. The Raiders rank second nationally in team defense (164 yards per game). Against the run CLC is even stingier (61 yards per game).

“They’re one of the top running teams in the country,” Medeck said. “They have one of the top running backs in the nation. We have to find a way to contain him. We have to keep their offense off the field, sustain our drives, move the ball, score some points, do the things that allow us to be competitive.”

Sunday will mark CLC’s third bowl game in three years. In the 2010 Valley of the Sun Bowl, CLC lost 23-13 to Glendale. In the 2009 Graphic Edge Bowl, CLC lost to Ellsworth 64-7.

“Three in three years, that’s a heck of an accomplishment for our program,” Medeck said. “If we can have a good showing, be competitive and get a win out of this it would be tremendous for our program.

“We went to back to back state championship games but didn’t make the playoffs this year. In some respects you could say we took a step back this year, but we’ll get national recognition if we win.”

Medeck doesn’t consider it an advantage to have played at the UNI Dome before but the experiences of two previous bowl games has helped the coaching staff prepare the team.

“We’re more prepared for the postseason now because of that initial meeting two years ago,” he said. “This year we’re more prepared as a staff and a program. We have more expertise on how to approach things. I think it gives us a better opportunity, to be in a competitive environment and atmosphere, and know more about what to expect Sunday.”

Medeck thanked CLC president Larry Lundblad and his administration for enabling the Raiders to go to another bowl.

“Larry Lundblad is a fantastic supporter of athletics on our campus,” Medeck said. “We’re so fortunate to have support from him in particular and administration as a whole to give us this opportunity.

“Not many colleges get an experience like this, the one that our guys are getting, in terms of athletics. That’s due in large part to the people upstairs who have stepped up to say we support this and lets find a way to commit to it.”

MIKE BIALKA may be reached at mike.bialka@brainerddispatch.com or at 855-5861.

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