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College Football: Offensive line propels CLC into state semis

MCAC state semifinals Who: Minnesota State-Fergus Falls at Central Lakes When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday Where: Findorff Field, Brainerd Only twice during the regular season did the Central Lakes College Raiders not have an individual named MCAC Norther...

MCAC state semifinals

Who: Minnesota State-Fergus Falls at Central Lakes

When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Findorff Field, Brainerd

Only twice during the regular season did the Central Lakes College Raiders not have an individual named MCAC Northern Division Player of the Week on offense or special teams.

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It's been an explosive offensive season for the unbeaten and NJCAA's eighth-ranked Raiders (9-0). They won the division title and led the MCAC in yards per game (494.4) and points scored (48.5). Five Raiders led the division in an offensive category.

"The key difference offensively between this year and last year is really the development of our offensive line," CLC head coach Greg Medeck said. "We're much stronger at that position group this year than we have been in years past."

The Raiders' offensive front includes tackles Austin Rucks (Sauk Rapids), Thomas Condon (Annandale) and Casey Giesseman (Sturgeon Bay, Wis.), guards Ben Fischer (Andover), Curtis Brisk (Pierz) and Preston Scheuer (Ionia, Mich.) and center Jose Nieves (St. Thomas, Virgin Islands).

CLC hopes its offense will continue to be explosive when it hosts the Minnesota State Fergus Falls Spartans at 1 p.m. Saturday in the MCAC state semifinals. The Spartans (5-4) are the No. 2 seed from the South and lost to CLC 45-20 in the season opener. In the state quarterfinals they handled Minnesota West 47-27.

"That was Game One. We're on Game 10 so it's a totally different season for both clubs," Medeck said of the previous meeting between the teams. "I think we've progressed a long way. We've made some good strides defensively and offensively, as their club has too. Their club has become very explosive offense. They've had a couple of nice signature wins at the end of the season to get themselves not only propelled into the postseason but also to get a postseason win."

Quarterback Jake Faber (Sherburne) has benefited the most from CLC's offensive line play. The 6-foot-3, 197-pound freshman led the division in passing with 156 completions in 278 attempts (56.1 percent) for 2,254 yards and 30 TDs. He has been offensive player of the week five times.

"It begins with our quarterback. He's kind of the marquee guy because the stats go through him," Medeck said of Faber. "His numbers are outstanding. He's a young quarterback that's matured through the course of the season. But he's had a lot of help as we've got some incredible pieces around him."

The pieces include wide receivers Sam Moriarty (Cold Spring), Steve Wroblewski (Denver) and Kieran Johnson (St. Paul). Moriarty led the North in receptions with 41 for 422 yards and two TDs. Wroblewski led the division in receiving yards with 671 on 38 catches and nine scores. Johnson led the division in TDs with 11 on 26 catches for 503 yards.

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Beau Wilhelm (White Bear Lake) and Elias Arlington (Cottage Grove) round out a talented receiving corps.

"Sam and Steve are the two returning guys that are grooming the younger guys and helping Jake along through the growing process," Medeck said. "They have both given everything we expected out of them. The three young guys - Beau, Kieran and Elias - are mighty explosive and reliable and are fun to watch. They've taken huge steps over the course of the season in their development.

"Jake's got a lot of comfort level in the pass game with those guys."

Athen Ashton (Farmington) gives CLC comfort in the run game. He led the division in attempts (147), yards (608) and TDs (6).

"Ashton has stepped up and has been kind of a workhorse this season," Medeck said. "We lost a good running back in Week Two (Trey Blanchard). Athen has stepped up and embraced that role and done a nice job with it."

The kicking of Fafa Asante (Brooklyn Center) complements the offense. He has kicked 51 extra points and six field goals to lead the division with 69 points.

"What a weapon that we've never really been able to have the luxury of having before," Medeck said. "He's so consistent and reliable. We know what we're getting from him. We're really appreciative of having him in the mix this year. He gives us a lot of confidence offensively."

The Raiders can also play defense. They have surrendered just 243.1 yards and 21.8 points a game.

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Up front, CLC starts Jake Kassulker (Brainerd) and Logan Novak (Foley) at the tackles with Cedric Davis at noseguard (White Bear Lake).

Linebackers are Josh Mantel (Mora), Josh Johnson (St. Paul), Max Strand (Amherst, Wis.) and Anthony Valladares (Cottage Grove).

Defensive backs are Ajrian Stone-Caldwell (Eden Prairie), Tre Deadwiler (Madison, Wis.), Auqueith Bradshaw (Daytona Beach, Fla.) and Josh Lanners (Pierz).

"We've got good sophomore experience but it's taken the bulk of the season to get all of the pieces in place, the concepts aligned and get guys playing at a high level," Medeck said. "We've played a lot of pieces. It's been a luxury because of our offensive output. Our offense has put us in a lot of games where we can play a ton of guys defensively and get a chance to look at different guys."

• Local flavor

The Raiders have 10 players on the roster within a 45-mile radius of Brainerd.

In addition to Kassulker, Lanners and Brisk, the delegation includes wide receiver Taylor Rushmeyer, defensive back Troy Lenz, defensive linemen Chris Laber, Sam Adams and Bill Desrocher, all of Brainerd; Jared Adkins, Pine River; and Will Kramer of Pequot Lakes.

"Hopefully they can attest that they've had a good experience in the program here," Medeck said. "Sometimes there's some reluctance or hesitancy to stay home when there are other opportunities out there to go play football. I think we've done a good job of giving a positive inclusive experience for a lot of the local guys."

Central Lakes College Raiders

OFFENSE
QB: 10-Jake Faber

RB: 28-Athen Ashton

WR: 5-Sam Moriarty

WR: 8-Beau Wilhelm

WR: 11-Elias Arlington

WR: 80-Kieran Johnson

WR: 88-Steve Wroblewski

LT: 71-Austin Rucks

LG: 55-Ben Fischer

LG: 79-Curtis Brisk

C: 74-Jose Nieves

RG: 68-Preston Scheuer

RT: 77-Thomas Condon

RT: 78-Casey Giesseman

DEFENSE

DE: 57-Jake Kassulker

NG: 52-Cedric Davis

DT: 40-Logan Novak

LB: 9-Josh Mantel

LB: 33-Josh Johnson

LB: 36-Max Strand

LB: 45-Anthony Valladares

CB: 3-Ajrian Stone-Caldwell

CB: 23-Tre Deadwiler

SS: 2-Auqueith Bradshaw

FS: 20-Josh Lanners

SPECIAL TEAMS

P: 5-Sam Moriarty

K: 6-Fafa Asante

KR: 7-Barron Taylor

KR: 11-Elias Arlington

PR: 8-Beau Wilhelm

PR: 13-Rodney Poe

LS: 79-Curtis Brisk

MIKE BIALKA may be reached at mike.bialka@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark .

Related Topics: COLLEGE FOOTBALL
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