College football: RCTC set for showdown with Central Lakes
In recent years Rochester Community and Technical College knows when it will face MCAC Southern Division rival Central Lakes.
The game is usually circled on the calendar. At least the meeting in the regular season. Of course the two state powers have also met in the state title game in three of the past four seasons.
The two football teams square off at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at Rochester Regional Sports Stadium. Central Lakes held the upper hand a year ago, beating RCTC twice.
"We have a lot of respect for their team so we just have to come out and do our job," RCTC defensive end Justin Carr of Rochester said. "That's going to be our homecoming, too."
Both teams enter the game 3-0 and Central Lakes is ranked 15th in the nation among junior college teams.
"The intensity has been good at practice and the guys are hungry," RCTC coach Bill Quistorff said. "They know what to expect. We've been watching a lot of film and we'll be ready for anything they throw at us."
The Southern Division appears to be the elite conference in the MCAC this season. Four of the five teams are currently 3-0 while just two teams from the Northern Division have a win. But Saturday's contest between RCTC and Central Lakes could very well determine the Southern Division champion.
"I'd say the key to the game for us is just playing 60 minutes," Quistorff said. "We need to get up on them early and just finish the game. We want to avoid penalties and mistakes."
Both teams enter with high-power offenses. RCTC is No. 1 in the state in yardage gained and points scored while Central Lakes is No. 1 and 3 in the two categories.
Returning All-American quarterback Andrew Johnson is a key player for the visiting Raiders. He leads the state in passing yards (761) and touchdown passes (9).
"He's most definitely the biggest part of their team and makes them go," Quistorff said.
"Out defensive backs lead the nation in interceptions (with 11 in three games) so they're ready for the challenge," the coach added.
RCTC's defense posted a shutout last week and Quistorff said "that's a big goal for them this week."
The Yellowjackets face a tough task in trying to shut down the Raiders, however. Last year Central Lakes scored 31 and 33 points in the two meetings against RCTC.
RCTC's offense has scored 119 points in three games, but the Central Lakes defense has allowed a mere 13.
"The key for us is to make the plays when they are there to be made," Quistorff said. "We want to make the big plays when we have the opportunity.
"We want to be able to sustain drives and finish drives instead of settling for field goals like we did last week," Quistorff added.
Ruan Albuquerque tied a single-game school mark with four field goals last week and had all of RCTC's points through three quarters in a 26-0 win over Fond du Lac.
RCTC quarterback Travis Menke is second in the state with 616 passing yards. He left last week's game in the fourth quarter with a tight lower back. Quistorff expects the freshman to be 100 percent for Saturday's game, but if he has a relapse sophomore Jake Kirsch of Rochester will take over.
The Yellowjackets also feature three strong running backs in Alex Schliesmann (311 yards), Charles Arnold (213 yards) and Virgil Hammond (156 yards).
"We think we have a three-headed monster at running back," Quistorff said. "All three will get their chances and then we'll go with the hot hand and keep their legs fresh."