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Changes at the top, but RCTC football program still has lofty goals

Terrance Isaac Sr. takes over reins as Yellowjackets look to get back in state title game for first time since 2015.

RCTC players work on a drill.jpg
Rochester Community and Technical College wide receiver Quaydrian Frazier, left, and defensive back Joseph Tarnue work on a drill during a Yellowjackets football practice on Aug. 22, 2022, at the RCTC campus. Coming off a 4-4 season, RCTC has high hopes this season under new coach Terrance Isaac Sr.
Guy N. Limbeck / Post Bulletin
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Rochester Community and Technical College has a new football coaching staff for the 2022 season, but the program again has lofty expectations.

RCTC is trying to get back to a place that used to be commonplace. From 1996 to 2015, the Yellowjackets played in 19 of 20 state championship games, winning 15. But RCTC has not played in a state title game since 2015.

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The Yellowjackets have now won three straight games to improve to 5-1 on the season.

Terrance Isaac Sr. takes over as head coach with RCTC coming off a 4-4 season. He was the head coach at Vermilion Community College a year ago and is a former wide receiver for the Ironmen.

“When I played at Vermilion, this was always the measuring stick for us,” Isaac Sr. said of Rochester. “So nothing but respect from the program as I watched it from afar.

“We don’t want guys who just come in and play football,” he added. “We want guys to come in, get their degree and then leave, a natural progression.”

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RCTC was not ranked in the top five of the preseason NJCAA Division III national poll. MCAC foes North Dakota State School of Science (third) and Central Lakes (fourth) were both ranked. The Yellowjackets have high hopes, however.

“We’re really excited,” Isaac Sr. said. “It’s just a matter of getting these guys to jell, but it’s been a fun process.”

RCTC has 82 players on the squad, including nine who followed Isaac Sr. from Vermilion. That includes his son, Terrance Isaac Jr., who was an All-American wide receiver a year ago.

“The goal is to win it all this year, we just have to come together as a team and jell together,” RCTC defensive tackle Johnathan Douglas said. “Because I really feel like our offense and defense, going against each other in practice, we won’t face an intense team like that.”

The defense could help jump start RCTC to some early success. RCTC opens on Saturday when it hosts Aces Elite Prep Academy, a prep school out of North Carolina.

“That defense is going to be scary,” Isaac Sr. said. “We have some athletes over there flying around.”

RCTC football coach Terrance Isaac Sr. does not allow his coaches to curse at players and he doesn't want players to use profanity either.

Douglas, safety Joseph Tarnue and cornerback Malachi Mitchell are some of the top returning players on defense. Defensive end Caleb Wade, safety Deleon Gardner and linebacker Tyree Ready also return.

“Most of the secondary guys are back, that’s a great bunch right there,” Isaac Sr. said. “And you mix those guys with a couple guys we brought in from Vermilion, and then some new guys, and I’m excited to see that defense go to work.”

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Andrew Eriks, a linebacker who played at Vermilion, was All-MCAC a year ago and is a preseason All-American, while safety Devonta Roberts also joins RCTC from Vermilion. Keylan Jackson should make a big impact in the secondary along with lineman Dillon Drake, a Division II transfer.

Defensive coordinator Tony McKinney likes to change the base defense depending on what type of offense the opponent runs.

“They’re really aggressive and I like watching them fly around in practice every day,” Isaac Sr. said. “The competition at practice is really high level.”

Expect the offense to throw

On offense, expect the Yellowjackets to run a lot of multiple wide receiver sets and throw at least 60 percent of the time. Isaac Sr. likes to throw to set up the run.

Sylas Christie mug.jpg
Sylas Christie

Four players are battling for the quarterback spot, but Sylas Christie of Washington state is expected to start the opener.

“We like to let the quarterbacks call their own plays,” Isaac Sr. said. “It’s something I’ve been doing for years now.”

Jaylan Gardner, Ryan King and Neltrevon Price are also looking for playing time at QB.

“On this team, we’ve got a lot of leaders and that’s what he wanted us to be,” Christie said. “He’s brought certain guys in here to build this program to be the best that it can be.”

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The running game could be done by committee. LaQwan Sims and Quaydrian Frazier both played at Vermilion a year ago while Moses Hancock and Yaach Chuol return from the 2021 RCTC squad.

Wide receiver should be a strength on offense with Isaac Jr. leading the way. Two top freshmen should be Preston Landeis, who like Christie attended Emerald Ridge High School in Spanaway, Wash., and Dylan Ham. Fernando Chavez and tight ends Zachary Cowan and Tylan Roundtree return from a year ago.

The offensive line could be anchored by 6-foot-6, 290-pound Gavin Layton of Coon Rapids High School. Brasil Chalchi, a 300-pounder, comes over from Vermilion while 330-pound center Felix Foucher returns from last season.

RCTC should have a strong kicking game with Julius Boutrup Eriksen, who originally hails from Denmark.

This is Isaac Sr.’s 19th season as a football coach and his 12th as a head coach. He wants players to be leaders of the team and Christie can feel the energy during practice.

“I like these guys around me,” Christie said. “They’re motivated, they’re hard working; I love their work ethic.”

RCTC football schedule

Aug. 27 — Aces Elite Prep Academy, 1 p.m.

Sept. 3. — at College of DuPage, 1 p.m.

Sept. 10 — at Central Lakes, 1:30 p.m.

Sept. 17 — Mesabi Range, 2 p.m.

Sept. 24 — Minnesota West, 1:30 p.m.

Oct. 1 — at Minnesota State-Fergus Falls, 2:30 p.m.

Oct. 8 — North Dakota State School of Science, 1:30 p.m.

Oct. 15 — at Vermilion, 1:30 p.m.

Guy N. Limbeck is a Rochester native who has been working at a daily newspaper since 1981. He has worked at the Post Bulletin since 1999. Readers can reach Guy at 507-285-7724 or glimbeck@postbulletin.com.
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