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College Football: No. 11 Raiders to face fifth-ranked Arizona Western

For the fourth time in six years, the Central Lakes College Raiders are going bowling. The Raiders (10-1), ranked 11th in the country, will go up against No. 5 Arizona Western (10-1) in the El Toro Bowl at Yuma, Ariz., on Saturday, Dec. 6. CLC's ...

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For the fourth time in six years, the Central Lakes College Raiders are going bowling.

The Raiders (10-1), ranked 11th in the country, will go up against No. 5 Arizona Western (10-1) in the El Toro Bowl at Yuma, Ariz., on Saturday, Dec. 6.

CLC's offense and defense had outstanding seasons, as demonstrated by winning the Northern Division of the MCAC, and by placing eight players on the all-division first team.

Three defensive players were honored on that team including Josh Mantel, Josh Johnson and Cedric Davis.

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El Toro Bowl

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One could point to Sept. 20 when the defense gained a swagger that carried them through the regular season and all the way to the state finals. In that game, the Raiders clung to a 35-32 lead with Fond du Lac driving into their territory. With 4:37 left in the game, and with the Thunder having a first down at the CLC 28, lightning and high winds caused an approximate 45-minute delay.

"There were so many emotions going on then," Johnson said. "We didn't know what was going on. We were playing a good game with them, but knew that we should be playing better, and when we came out after that break we had a different mindset. We knew we would be on defense and that we needed a stop and that is what we did."

For Mantel it was a different feeling as he realized the goal of a perfect season could be slipping away.

"I think it was the fact that we were that close to losing. That kind of opened our eyes, and we just didn't want to lose," Mantel said. "Coach (Greg Medeck) had a couple words for us to just keep our heads up and keep moving forward."

Move forward they did. The defense gave up just six yards on four tries, and CLC came away with the 35-21 win.

In the first four games of the season, the Raiders' defense gave up an average of 30 points per game. After the Thunder game, that number dropped to 17 per game.

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"Football is not as big of a numbers game as other sports, but you can still break that down and it may have been a pivotal point of the season for our defense, " said Medeck. "We played a lot of guys all year long and it took a while to get into a groove defensively, but we were 4-0 and not too worried about statistics. It was nice to see our defense progress over the season."

CLC ended up finishing the regular season behind just Dakota College in total points allowed (174) and in yards allowed per game (243).

For Johnson, the decision to come to CLC was an easy one as it gave him the opportunity to play with his brother Andrew.

"My older brother played here last year and was an All-American quarterback and when he made the decision to come here it kind of influenced me because I wanted to play football with him one more time," Johnson said. "It was a great decision, and I love playing up here."

Mantel was undecided as to where he wanted to go until his coach convinced him that CLC was the right spot. He has never regretted that decision.

"I really didn't know where I was going to be going coming out of high school. My grades weren't really there, and I looked at junior colleges," Mantel said. "My coach said that CLC had the best program in football and that I would be a good fit. It has been a good fit and I have really liked it. I'm glad that I didn't end up somewhere else."

Medeck's defenses have developed a tradition of toughness through the years, and he says it's all about putting players in a position to succeed.

"I like to think that we are putting our guys in the best position to make plays," he said. "That is our goal going in is to prepare them to execute. It still comes down to blocking and tackling, but if we are doing our job as coaches were are putting them in the right spot to do the job."

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The defense will have its work cut out this weekend as the Raiders go up against quarterback Trent Hosick and running back Darrell Monroe of the Matadors from Arizona Western College. The two combined for 20 rushing touchdowns and over 1,200 rushing yards.

"Their quarterback is really good and they have athletes everywhere," Johnson said. "They are a good team and well-coached, but we are ready for them."

The Raiders did get good news that they will get one of their defensive captains, Josh Lanners, back after he had suffered a leg injury in the state championship game. Lanners is a leader in the defensive secondary.

"It is huge for Josh being in his second year as a Raider, and a captain this year. He is one of our leaders and he is a smart football player," said Medeck. "We really need him back there because he is kind of the quarterback of the defense."

All the preparation is over for the sophomores. Now it's time to go out and represent the Raiders one more time.

"We have to keep their quarterback contained, and they have a strong running game," said Mantel. "The key to our defense is stopping the run so we will see what happens."

Related Topics: COLLEGE FOOTBALL
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