A year of transition could offer great opportunity for the Central Lakes College football team and interim head coach Robb Kolodziej with their season opening game this Saturday, Aug. 24, at Dakota College.
Head coach Greg Medeck is taking a sabbatical this fall and Kolodziej moves to interim head coach. The Raiders will also be playing home games at Brainerd High School this season as the Findorff Athletic Complex goes through a makeover beginning in late August. The new field will be open and ready for the 2020 season.
While things are a bit different, Kolodziej and the veteran coaching staff look to continue the tradition of Raider football. CLC has been a host for the state tournament semifinals the last two years, but have failed to advance to the championship game.
“I think the history of this program is built on doing more with less,” Kolodziej said. “I think in many cases we take kids and teach them how to play efficiently so they can beat a more athletic kid. Not necessarily one-on-one, but as a team in the right position and doing the right thing you can neutralize advantages.
“In terms of physicality, the kids know where they need to be when practice time comes. In terms of schematics, we both believe in keeping it simple. Don’t ask a kid to come out and do 15 decisions. Play simple and play fast. The more simplistic the game, the faster they will be able to play the game and the more their natural abilities will come out.”
Shane Jordan, Riley Atkinson and Dave Bostrom all return as coaches for a team that has a good number of first-year players that will be in key positions. It was one of the reasons Medeck is taking a sabbatical this year.
Kolodziej pointed out the returning players determine what the team is going to be.
“Junior college develops a unique opportunity for your returning sophomores,” he said. “I have tried to do a good job of talking to our returning players to say, ‘This is your team.’ The kids want to know who I am connected with that can help them get a scholarship and my response is that my connections will not get them a scholarship. It is your play on Saturdays that will do that.”
On the defensive side, Kolodziej identified Isaak Hines as an athlete who bought into the program and will represent a strong defensive unit.
“He is a Brainerd kid and has really been on the ball this summer,” he said. “He took charge last spring and I think he has really figured it out. He is the poster child for what junior colleges are all about. And I am not just talking about playing. He figured out how to go to school and take care of his business. He has grown miles by coming here and he is going to benefit greatly by doing it.
“Defensively, our linebacker group is our deepest group with Collin Wilcox leading the way. He will be our defensive quarterback and his understanding of our defense is the best on the team. Our defensive line will be anchored by Hines. The secondary is our youngest group, with a ton of talent and very eager to learn. I am excited to watch them grow throughout the year.”
On offensive, the Raiders lost quarterback Jake Franklin who threw for 1,744 yards and 16 touchdowns and running back Nuke Crowell who finished with 851 yards rushing. He split carries with Ridge Reed, who gained 728 yards and scored seven touchdowns, and returns.
“Offensively, our offensive line looks great, led by Logan Wickens and Xavier Hearns,” Kolodziej said, “I will be looking for this group to lead the tempo of our offensive unit. Our backfield returns Ridge Reed, who has experience in a D1 program, as well as a host of freshman with flashes of exciting talent. Both of our QB's (Jake Olson and Armoni Gause) look very capable and for now I would anticipate seeing them share reps. Our receiving core will rely on the entire group as we anticipate spreading the ball out in our passing game. “
The team finished their second week of practice and are preparing this week for Dakota College. The team will return for their season opener against Vermilion Saturday, Aug 31.
“In this league it’s so hard to know how good you are till you see everyone else,” Kolodziej said. “Two thirds of our team our freshman and that is true throughout the league, so until we play a couple games, we don't really have a gauge of where we are at. Our intersquad scrimmage looked good and my expectations are high, but we won't know till we play a couple games how good we are relative to our opponents.”
The travel schedule is tough as the Raiders will take trips to Rochester, Minnesota West and Dakota College along with Itasca. They will face Vermilion, Mesabi and Fond du Lac at home before closing out the regular season against two-time defending state champion Northland.
Head coach: Robb Kolodziej (first year)
2018 finish: 5-0 Eastern, 7-3 overall
Assistant coaches: Shane Jordan (Offensive line coach), Freddie Weinke (DL), Riley Atkinson (Offensive coordinator), Dave Bostrom (running backs coach), Jordan Getty (defensive backs coach), Curtis Brisk (volunteer offensive line coach).
Jarren Hutcherson (DB), Jacob Olson (QB), Evan Johnson (DB), Alec Frederick (WR), Mike Bostrom (WR), Armoni Gause (QB), Eli Winegarner (DL), Talon Bradley (WR), Jacob Harvey (WR), Collin Morrison (WR), Garrett Koenig (WR), Jayou Mensah (WR), Rashaun Cage (RB), Ridge Reed (RB), Dylan DiMaggio (RB), Tanasi Reed (WR), Jesse Sherwood (RB), Rance Jones (DB), Paul Jacobson (FB), Lionel Gates (DB), Ivory Jones JR. (FB), Brady Anderson (DB), Teon Dean (DB), Maximillian Estrem (LB), Derek Olssen (DB), Amen-Pierre Sessou (LB), Daylon Puckett (LB), Adam Davis (DL), Dominic Aganmwonyl (DB), Antonio Aqullo (DL), Collin Wilcox (LB), Zach Roberts (DL), Steph Brown (LB), Ryan Peterson (OL), Austin Durheim (DL), Isaak Hines (DL), Riley Worden (DL), Charles Dressel (LB), Brennan Corbine (LB), Jonathan Rios (DL), Hunter Powless (OL), James Galda (OL), Trevon Roberts-Sand (OL), Mat Schueler (OL), Xavier Herns (OL), Sam Sjogren (DL), Logan Wickens (OL), Keountae Davis (OL), Jake Moe (WR), Noah Borchardt (TE)
Saturday, Aug. 24: at Dakota College noon
Saturday, Aug. 31: host Vermillon 1:30 p.m. at Brainerd High School
Sept. 7: at Minnesota West 2:30 p.m.
Sept. 14: hosts Mesabi Range 1:30 p.m. at BHS
Sept. 21: at Rochester 7 p.m.
Sept. 28: hosts Fond du Lac 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 5: at Itasca 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 19: hosts Northland 1:30 p.m.