College Football: Hot first half gives Raiders win
Central Lakes hosts Mesabi Range Saturday, Sept. 24
BRAINERD — A blocked punt returned for a touchdown and a fumble recovery propelled Central Lakes College to their second win of the season on a rainy afternoon Saturday, Sept. 24.
Ashton Hanan got his hands on a punt and Cole Hiltner scooped it up for a 27-yard return for touchdown. Later in the second quarter Devin Jones stripped the ball from a Mesabi runner and Joey Hoeschen recovered the ball. One play later Sherrod Russell scored on an 18-yard burst and the Raiders had a 20-yard second quarter on their way to a 27-13 win over Mesabi Range.
It was a key win as Central Lakes improved to 2-2 and now sits in fourth place with two games remaining in the regular season. They will have a chance to move up in the standings with a win over third place North Dakota College of Science next Saturday, Oct. 1.
Hiltner and Hoeschen were part of a stout Raiders defense that turned the Norsemen over four times and also stopped the Mesabi offense on all six fourth down attempts.
The defense helped cover for the Raiders offense that wasn’t able to get any points on the scoreboard in the second half and was held to 52 rushing yards for the game. Central Lakes held a 27-7 halftime lead, which it held as the conditions deteriorated in the second half.
“Our guys had fun and we were able to enjoy going out to play the game of football and the scoreboard took care of itself and we are happy with that, but our guys just had fun today,” head coach Greg Medeck said.
The Raiders had scored just seven points in last week’s loss to Minnesota West but they opened the scoring against Mesabi in the first quarter on a six play, 50-yard drive that ended in an 18-yard pass from Matt Torres to Paul Meyer for a touchdown.
Mesabi tied the game early in the second quarter on a 51-yard scoring pass from Trintae Jacobs to Jose Magarin, but the Raiders responded with a seven play drive for 75 yards that ended with a scoring pass from Torrres to David Boyd Jr. that made it 14-7 Raiders after the extra point from Gottwalt.
Torres was 15-of-36 for 231 yards and two touchdowns.
The floodgates opened up for the Raiders just two minutes later. Hanan got through to block a punt and Hiltner picked up the ball and raced 27 yards for the score.
“Hanan knocked out the ball and I saw the ball and almost jumped on it just to get down but picked it up and was focused on not getting caught,” Hiltner said. “That is something we scouted all week. We said we could block it and we actually thought we could get a couple more of them, but we made that one that we did get count.”
Medeck added: “It’s one of 200 but some of (blocked punts) mean more when they turn into points or a game-defining play that can switch momentum like that. We thought there was an opportunity, we called it and it was executed well. A guy like Cole who is opportunistic picked it up and scored on it, that was a beauty.”
The next possession Jones stripped the ball from the Mesabi ball carrier and Hoeschen pounced on it to give Central Lakes the ball back at the 18-yard line of Mesabi.
“I was super excited,” Hoeschen said. “With this weather I knew we needed to get some takeaways and I knew that we gave our offense a great opportunity. Devin Jones did a great job in stripping the ball and laid it out there. I didn’t want to pull a Cole (Hiltner) and try the scoop and score because I knew I would have got caught.”
Sherrod Russell scored on an 18-yard run on the first offensive play to give the Raiders a 27-7 lead at the half.
“We obviously didn’t have a chance to score in the second half to keep moving the momentum in our favor, but I thought we placed complimentary football and we were excited about that,” said Medeck.
The only score of the second half came early in the fourth quarter on a 22-yard pass from Charles Fiuza Jr. to Andreus Griffin to make the final score 27-13.
“We still have work to do,” Medeck said. “We haven’t seen the best out of this team yet. We still haven’t put together a complete performance that can see us peak and that is a good thing because we have a lot of football to play in the last third of the season.”