The third week of the Minnesota College Athletic Conference football season offers teams, coaches and fans the first look of how the Divisional races may shape up as the fall rolls on. The top four teams from the Eastern and Western Divisions will qualify for the MCAC Playoffs, with a chance to compete for a spot in the MCAC State Championship game. The bottom two teams which fail to qualify will find their seasons ending in mid-October and will head back to the proverbial chalkboard to recruit and prepare for 2018.
Whether a team is 0-2, 2-0 or 1-1, all squads start Saturday with a chance to chase a Divisional Playoff berth. And, several teams and players seem to be hitting their stride at the right time. A quick lap around the MCAC Football Week 3 fixtures:
The Central Lakes College Raiders moved up two spots to the #12 rung on the NJCAA national poll. While sitting 2-0, CLC now must defend their 2016 Eastern Division crown, while the bullseye on their backs grows a bit larger with each MCAC win. First crack at Central Lakes in the East falls to Vermilion Community College, who travels to Brainerd on Saturday for a 1:30pm game. Vermilion is 1-1 overall, and looked impressive in a 28-7 win in Week 2 over M State. The Ironmen have a couple of MCAC and NJCAA statistical top performers in linebacker Danilson Da Veiga-Semedo and quarterback Breon Jackson, both whom are at or near the top of the league in tackles per game and touchdowns, respectively. VCC receiver Glen Smith is second in the league in receiving yards as well. A balanced Central Lakes squad will focus on details to keep their streak alive; the Raiders haven't lost a MCAC contest since October, 31, 2015, when NDSCS clipped them, 39-35.
Also playing at home this week is Rochester Community & Technical College, who are coming off of two of the longest road games in the Conference; away to Northland CTC and Dakota College- Bottineau. The Yellowjackets are 1-1 and will host Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College in a 6pm kickoff in Rochester. On defense, RCTC will be led by NJCAA National Player-of-the-Week, Brandon Perce (LB) and defensive lineman Jeffery Jones (DL), who leads the league in solo tackles. Saturday makes for an intriguing matchup, as FDL boasts the number one rusher in the Nation in NJCAA football in Lorine Parker, who is averaging 174 yards a game. Something has got to give when irresistible force meets an unmoveable object (or two), and this contest is shaping up to be great NJCAA showcase in the Med City.
Mesabi Range College and Itasca Community College are two of the closest geographic rivals in the Conference, and with the race to the playoffs taking shape, one would expect a tightly contested affair. ICC helped first-year head coach Weldon Braxton collect his inaugural career victory in Week 2 with a win over Ridgewater College while Mesabi Range battled to the end in a close, 30 - 23 loss at Minnesota West last Saturday. The Norsemen and Vikings, are both 1-1 heading into tomorrow's contest. ICC quarterback Jay Cummings has accounted for 383 yards and 3 TD's so far in 2017, while MRC boasts a pair of quarterbacks who have tallied minutes in both games; Deabrie Smith is 23-of-37 (255 yards) while cohort Quinton Harris has 151 yards so far on the season. This Iron Range battle will take place in Virgina, Minnesota at Mesabi Range. Kickoff is set for 1:30pm.
Northland Community & Technical College is off to a 2-0 start and heads into Week 3 with significant momentum. They will face Dakota College-Bottineau, who is 1-1 on the season after a close, 24-21 loss to RCTC at home in Week 2. DC-B will have to find a way to stop - or at least contain - Pioneer quarterback Shannon Patrick, who has earned MCAC Offensive Player-of-the-Week in twice so far this fall. Patrick is tops in the league in yards per game at 265 per contest. However, Dakota College-Bottineau leads the MCAC in total offense per game with 386.5 yards per outing and running back Eljiah Todd is 2nd in the league in rushing yards. Between these two offenses, it can be expected for a possible scoreboard malfunction as both squads look to get in the endzone early and often. Defensively, Ethan Hill of NCTC has put quarterbacks under pressure and on their backsides with 5 sacks so far in 2017. As a team, the Jacks have picked off two passes and sacked opposing QB's ten times over two games. Kickoff is set for 3pm in Thief River Falls.
North Dakota State College of Science was mentioned in the NJCAA national poll in the early weeks of the season and is hoping to climb back into the national discussion. To do so, they will have to dispatch Ridgewater College in the opening Western Division contest for both teams. Ridgewater is 1-1 on the season and no stranger to close contests, winning 13-6 in Week 1 at Fond du Lac and falling 21-20 at home to Itasca CC. The pivotal contest for both teams seems to be predicated on defense; both the Wildcats and the Warriors have been able to limit opposition offenses from lighting up the scoreboard. Ridgewater is paced by linebacker Josh Allen defensively and by quarterback Carl Borlies, who also handles the punting duties. NDSCS has found more success through the air (192.5 yards per game) than on the ground (71.0 rushing yards per game) so far this year, but this looks to be a contest that could change those Wildcat stats. Either way, North Dakota SCS seems to make the most of the times they pass, as they lead the Conference in yards per catch as a team at almost ten yards a grab. Kicker Gregory Slade has connected on 4-of-5 field goal attempts so far this season. Kickoff in Wahpeton is set for 1:30pm.
Minnesota West will travel to M State in Fergus Falls for a 2:30pm Week 3 game. The Bluejays are coming off of a 30-23 win over Mesabi Range at home last week, while M State is still looking to give new head coach Korey Fry his first win in charge of the Spartans. Reginald Colson III leads the MCAC in receiving after two weeks of games, at 274 total yards and four touchdowns. As a team, M State averages over 100 yards on the ground in offense, but will need to improve their pass defense, which has conceded an average of 228 yards to their opponents. Marcus Davis and Keegan McCormack-Reamer have both taken snaps for the Spartans so far this year. After two weeks on the road, M State opens up their home slate against Minnesota West CTC at 2:30pm in Fergus Falls.
For more information on the 2017 Minnesota College Athletic Conference football season, be sure to bookmark these links:
The Minnesota College Athletic Conference website main page is: http://www.mcacsports.org/landing/index
This release sponsored in part by Gopher Sport.
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About the Minnesota College Athletic Conference
The Minnesota College Athletic Conference is the organizational body for NJCAA-affiliated two-year technical and community college athletic programs in the Minnesota State system. The mission of the Minnesota College Athletic Conference is to advance intercollegiate athletics by providing an engaging and supportive environment for success of our student athletes and competition among member institutions. The MCAC is committed to the guiding principles of encouraging the development and success of student athletes, promoting the integrity, honesty and loyalty to member schools as well as upholding the sustainability of conference athletic programs.