Week 4 of the Minnesota College Athletic Conference football season represents the half-way point of the regular season slate; MCAC teams head into games tomorrow with significant playoff implications on the line. With some intriguing matchups in store, fans and followers of MCAC football are likely to see some important Divisional battles as squads compete for an inside track to the post-season.
In the Eastern Division, 9th ranked Central Lakes College will take their show on the road to visit Rochester Community & Technical College in what could prove to be a showcase of defensive prowess on the gridiron. CLC is 3-0 on the year so far and has won 14 straight Minnesota College Athletic Conference contests, stretching back to an undefeated 2016 conference ledger. This year, the Raiders have won with outstanding team defense, holding opponents to only 12, 10 and 8 points respectively, in their opening three contests. Three CLC defensive players - Marnez Trotter, Brendon Loch and Aaron Walker - have combined for over 45 tackles this fall. RCTC has made waves on the defensive side of the ball as well, with linebacker Brandon Perce earning National Player-of-the-Week honors in the NJCAA two weeks ago. Current NJCAA stats leaders show Perce and Yellowjacket teammate Jamel Smith among the top five nationally in tackles per game and sacks. This key Eastern Division game will kickoff at 1:30, Saturday, September 23rd in Rochester.
Also in the East, Mesabi Range College will put a 2-1 overall record and 1-0 Divisional mark on the line when they host Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College. The Norsemen will need to find a way to stop - or at least slow down - the nation's leading rusher in Lorine Parker, who currently is #1 in the NJCAA at 174.0 yards per game. Parker has been the consummate workhorse running back for the Thunder; only five other backs nationally have carried the ball more frequently than the FDL sophomore. Mesabi Range has been very good in the special teams category and in the red zone. Norsemen kicker Connor Cusick and his special teams unit has been a perfect 12-of-12 in field goals and PAT's so far this season while the MRC offense is in the NJCAA Top Ten in both touchdowns scored and points scored from inside the 20 yard line. MRC will host FDL in Virginia, Minnesota, with kickoff at 1:30pm.
The final East matchup features the Vermilion Ironmen at Itasca Community College. The ICC Vikings have battled to the end in their most recent two contests; a 21-20 win at Ridgewater in Week 2 and a 33-28 loss to Mesabi Range last weekend. Itasca is led on the ground by running back DJ Hickman, who has carried 44 times for 180 yards. Viking quarterback Jay Cummings has completed 52 passes in 104 attempts; his favorite target has been Jerod Jones, with 14 catches to date. Defensively, Jamauri Bennett leads ICC with 17 tackles, including seven behind the line of scrimmage. Vermilion will feature Jackson Long on the ground (48 rushes for 210 yards) and Glenn Smith in the air (21 catches). Freshman linebacker Danilson Da Veiga-Semedo leads VCC in tackles and is third in the MCAC in that category.
The Western Division race will be even more interesting after Saturday's games conclude; North Dakota State College of Science, Dakota College-Bottineau and M State all have 1-0 Divisional records, while Northland CTC, Minnesota West and Ridgewater are searching for their first Western 'W".
Thief River Falls, Minnesota will be the site for the M State vs. Northland CTC fixture, which should be an interesting clash of styles on the gridiron. Nobody throws the ball more, or more successfully, in MCAC football than Pioneer quarterback Shannon Patrick, who leads the MCAC and the nation in yards per game at 360.3. The West Palm Beach, Florida product has attempted 154 passes so far in 2017 and has registered a quarterback passing efficiency rating of 129.2 over NCTC's first three weeks. Waiting on the other side of the line of scrimmage will be M State defensive lineman Andrew Costello, defensive back Alfonso Battle and linebacker Lewis Jackson. Costello is 11th nationally in solo tackles, while Battle has three picks on the year so far. Jackson has 25 stops on the season for the Spartans. Fans can tune in at 1:30pm for the contest tomorrow, Saturday, September 23rd.
While the aerial show at Northland has garnered attention regionally and nationally, Minnesota West CTC quarterback Peyton Kendrick actually boasts the highest QB pass efficiency rating in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference at 160.0, a figure which is tops in the Conference and 8th nationally. A big reason for his success has been wide receiver Reginald Colson III, the current NJCAA Offensive Player-of-the-Week who has 21 catches for 499 yards so far in 2017. Defensively, the Bluejays will have to find a way to contain a NDSCS offense that has scored in the first quarter of two of their first three games. The Wildcats are led by quarterback Malik Gaillard who has thrown for 571 yards and three touchdowns. Defensively, NDSCS is paced by Deadrick Jackson who has 22 tackles and a sack for North Dakota State College of Science while placekicker Gregory Slade Jr. has the longest successful field goal so far in the MCAC at 42 yards. The Bluejay - Wildcat matchup will kickoff at 1:30pm in Worthington.
Ridgewater College will travel to Bottineau, North Dakota to take on the Dakota College 'Jacks in their Week 4 showdown. As a team, DCB has put up big numbers of their own, with two wins in which they scored 40 or more points. Running back Elijah Todd is tops in the league in touchdowns (6) and second in yards-per-game (126.3). When Dakota elects not to run the ball, quarterback Jackson Argoe has passed for 662 yards and 5 touchdowns. Ridgewater will be looking to contain the balanced DCB offense and the Warriors likely will lean on John McClure, Isaac Mortenson and Jordan Richards, who lead RC's defense so far in 2017. The Ridgewater - Dakota tilt will kickoff at 1:30pm, Central Standard time.
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
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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.