by Scott DCamp
Northland Community & Technical College will face Mesabi Range Community College in the MCAC Championship Game Sunday, Nov. 12 at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud. The recently announced start time is 1:30 p.m. and the game will be live-streamed through School Space Media (http://www.schoolspacemedia.com/)
Northland scored 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to upset defending MCAC Champion Central Lakes 32-21 Saturday, Nov. 4 in Brainerd to earn its spot in the championship game.
“I thought it was two really good football teams,” said Northland Head Coach Jim Cox. “Both teams played hard.”
Northland held a slight edge offensively against Central Lakes, outgaining the Raiders 483-405 as both teams battled a constant mist throughout the game.
Despite the wet football, Northland was able to do its damage through the air, with Shannon “The Irish Cannon” Patrick completing 37-of-60 passes for 450 yards and three touchdowns. Three interceptions, caused primarly by wet footballs deflecting off of the hands of Northland receivers, helped the Raiders take control of the game early and hold a lead late.
Central Lakes running back Nuke Crowell scored the game’s first points on a 59-yard first quarter touchdown run. The PAT by Antoine Akundu made it 7-0 in favor of the Raiders.
Northland responded later in the first quarter with Patrick connecting with Dwayne Taylor on a six-yard touchdown reception. A bad snap on the PAT kept the Raiders in front 7-6.
Northland took its first lead of the game in the second quarter, with Dakari Highsmith scoring on a one-yard run. Patrick connected with Malik Williams for the two-point conversion to push the Northland lead to 14-7.
Central Lakes tied the game before the end of the half on a five-yard run by Crowell.
The Raiders regained the lead in the third quarter on a 66-yard pass from Quentin Skinner to Jordan Thompson.
Northland scored what could have been a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter, with Kris King scoring on a 25-yard pass from Patrick. The ensuing PAT attempt by Dontae Ensley was blocked to keep Central Lakes up by one, 21-20.
Northland got a fourth down stop at its own 23,with a little more than two minutes left to play. It took just four plays for the Pioneers to score, with Highsmith catching a five-yard pass from Patrick, to go ahead 26-21 with 1:08 left to play.
On the ensuing possession, Skinner threw his only interception of the game to Northland defensive back Quan Priestley, who returned the interception 53-yards for a win-clinching touchdown.
With the win, Northland advances to the MCAC championship game for the first time since 2011, when the Merle Johnson-coached Pioneers lost 45-14 to Rochester Community & Technical College. Northland’s only other championship game appearance came during the 2002 season, which also ended in a loss to RCTC by a 24-14 score.
Mesabi Range advanced to the championship game after the Norsemen upset MCAC Western Divison Champion Dakota College, Bottineau, 48-43 on a snow-covered field.
Northland’s last head-to-head game against Mesabi Range came in 2016, with the Pioneers winning 20-14 in overtime. Both teams are former members of the MCAC Northern division before the conference went to an east-west alignment, and at one point the teams’ annual game was played for a traveling trophy called the shovel pick.
About Mesabi, Cox noted, “They played outstanding defense all year long. They are big and physical on the lines.”
1 2 3 4 T
Northland 6 8 0 18 32
Central Lakes 7 7 7 0 21
CLC – Nuke Crowell 60 run (Antoine Akundu kick
NCTC – Dwayne Taylor 6 pass from Shannon Patrick (kick failed)
NCTC – Dakari Highsmith 1 run (Malik Williams pass from Patrick)
CLC – Crowell 10 run (Akundu kick)
CLC – Jordan Thompson 66 pass from Quentin Skinner (Akundu kick)
NCC – Kris King 24 pass from Patrick (kick blocked)
NCC Highsmith 5 pass from Patrick (conversion failed)
NCC – Quan Priestly 58 interception return (kick failed)
• First downs – NCTC 24; CLC 17.
• Fumbles (total-lost) – NCTC 1-1; CLC 0-0.
• Penalties (number-yards) – NCTC 12-89; CLC 7-54.
• Punts (number-average) – NCTC 6-222; CLC 8-276.
• Rushing (attempts-yards) – NCTC 19-33; CLC 41-208.
• Passing – NCTC 37-for-60, 450 yards, 3 touchdowns, 3 interceptions; CLC 13-for-33, 197 yards, touchdown, interception.
• Total yards – NCTC 483; CLC 405.
• Rushing – (NCTC) Deion Hogan 9-17; Dakari Highsmith 4-17; Joe Cash 1-1; (CLC) Nuke Crowell 25-154, 2 touchdowns; Chidozie Mbah 9-31; Quentin Skiner 5-21.
• Passing – (NCTC) Shannon Patrick 37-for-60, 450 yards, 3 touchdowns, 3 interceptions; CLC Quentin Skinner 13-for-33, 197 yards, touchdown, interception.
• Receiving – (NCTC) Dwayne Taylor 5-123, touchdown; Malik Williams 13-92; Kris King 7-84, touchdown; Dakari Highsmith 6-61, touchdown; Will Bartels 4-38, touchdown; (CLC) Jordan Thompson 4-11, touchdown; Teshawn Kelly 3-27; Jakobi Jackson 2-18.
• Defense – Justin Scott 15 tackles; Kendal Sylvester 11 tackles, pass breakup; Damien Francis 10 tackles, pass breakup; Quan Priestley 9 tackles, interception, touchdown.