College Football: Surging Raiders open postseason vs. Fond Du Lac
The Central Lakes College Raiders begin play in the MCAC state tournament Sunday, Oct. 28, and they are peaking at the right time. The East Division No. 4-seeded Fond Du Lac Thunder visit the Findorff Athletic Complex to face the East No. 1 Raide...
The Central Lakes College Raiders begin play in the MCAC state tournament Sunday, Oct. 28, and they are peaking at the right time.
The East Division No. 4-seeded Fond Du Lac Thunder visit the Findorff Athletic Complex to face the East No. 1 Raiders in the MCAC state quarterfinals at 1:30 p.m.
The winner will face the winner of No.3 Dakota College Bottineau/No. 2 North Dakota State College of Science.
After starting the season with losses to Minnesota West and to North Dakota State College of Science, the Raiders responded with six straight wins and a perfect 5-0 record in the Eastern Division.
"We are on a positive trajectory which is what we ask for," said CLC coach Greg Medeck. "It's been a fairly steady climb with not a lot of ups and downs. We didn't get off on the right foot, but we have seen a good steady climb from the whole group."
"We do have a strong contingent of learners and that is all a coach can ask for. We have been able to play a number of guys in significant roles over the eight weeks and those adjust from week to week and we have seen some good growth across the group."
Jake Franklin has developed at quarterback where he finished the regular season with 13 passing touchdowns, which ranked second in the MCAC.
Jordan Thompson has proved to be a big-time receiver and he leads the MCAC in touchdown receptions with nine.
Nuke Crowell and Ridge Reed have also provided the Raiders balance in their offense with a steady ground game that has become more impactful as the season has gone on.
Crowell stands in second place in the MCAC with eight rushing touchdowns and is also second in yards per game rushing with 93. Reed is fifth in the conference with 81.9 yards per game.
"We have always had the concept of playing balanced offensive football, and there is a little bit of idealism there," Medeck said. "We have to play to our strengths, and right now that is the run game with two competent backs in Nuke and Ridge that complement each other really well. We will throw when we need to and that has been successful for us."
In the opener against Minnesota West, the Raiders gave up 36 points including several big plays to the Blue Jay offense. Since that game, CLC is allowing just under 20 points per game. Gabriel "Bubba" Magalei leads the team in tackles with 54, and Mekhi Besseck and Marnez Trotter each have three interceptions. Anthony King is third in sacks in the MCAC with seven.
Magalei had a big game two weeks ago when the Raiders faced the Thunder as he led the team with 12 tackles as the Raiders defeated Fond du Lac 38-20 at Cloquet Oct. 13, a game that clinched the Eastern Division title.
The defense held the Thunder to just 79 yards rushing and 254 total yards.
In that game, Jordan Thompson caught a 58-yard pass for a touchdown, Reed scored two touchdowns rushing and Crowell returned a kickoff 74 yards to give CLC a 19-8 lead in the third quarter.
As a team, the Raiders accumulated 23 first downs to 15 for the Thunder, and CLC rushed for 337 yards, and gained 490 total yards of offense. Reed rushed for 163 yards, and Crowell for 150. Overall the Raiders had 50 rushes.
"I was pleased with our ability to control the line of scrimmage successfully," Medeck said of the Fond Du Lac game. " I think we rushed for over 350 yards which is a staggering statistic in college football, and that should lead to a high level of confidence. We also know they are a very explosive team that can score from anywhere on the field and they are a high-risk, high-reward team. If we are not prepared to be consistent in our play defensively, we could still find ourselves vulnerable."
Some of the Thunder who will provide the Raiders a test are Fond du Lac quarterback Bryor Parisien, who is fifth in the conference with 185.8 yards per game. La Darin McAllister is fourth with six receiving touchdowns. Keenan Brown is third in receiving with 80.3 yards per game.
"The biggest thing for Fond du Lac is that they have some elite athletes that are dynamic on the offensive side of the ball, " Medeck said. "They have some skill position guys that are very difficult matchups and for our defense to be able to scheme against those explosive athletes is the main area of focus. They also have some guys on the defensive side of the ball that can give us some challenges."
The third element of a team is special teams, and Medeck has been pleased with the group's performance so far. Along with Crowell's return against Fond du Lac was another kickoff return for touchdown at Mesabi.
"We put a high emphasis on special teams and it is something that we look at very closely," Medeck said. "We pulled our best rabbit out of the hat finding a kicker in Jack Quaal after the start of the season. He hit a game-winning field goal against Itasca, and went 5-5 last week in conversions and Zach Severtson has been consistent all year with the punting game."