The Rochester Community and Technical College football team saw its season come to a close in stunning fashion on Sunday in the MCAC state quarterfinals.
After holding a 28-8 lead over Minnesota West at the half, the host Yellowjackets crumbled over the final 30 minutes. Fourth-seeded Minnesota West (5-4) scored three straight touchdowns in the second half to rally for a 29-28 victory over No. 3 RCTC.
Following the game, RCTC sophomore quarterback Justin Lynn asked no one in particular: “How did we blow a 28-8 lead?”
And with tempers running hot following the contest, the two teams engaged in a fight on the field that lasted a couple minutes.
“That’s not how I wanted my last game here to go, us fighting at the end,” RCTC sophomore offensive lineman Tristan Bryant said. “I was shaking hands and it was right behind me and that’s when the (bleep) happened.”
RCTC head coach Derrick Hintz said he’d “never seen anything like it” in his 19 seasons with the Yellowjackets program.
“It was beyond wild, it was embarrassing,” Hintz said. “I don’t know how it started. I wasn’t far behind the (RCTC team) leaders, but I was scanning back and forth trying to find the (Minnesota West) coach. And then the melee broke out and it was bedlam.”
No one appeared to be hurt during the ruckus.
“We’re the players, so it falls on us,” Bryant said.
The way the game started, RCTC didn't look like it would be in for a disturbing day. The Yellowjackets scored touchdowns on their first two drives to take a quick 14-0 lead as quarterback Billy Maples tossed a 31-yard TD pass to Damario Richards and Maples followed with a 9-yard touchdown run.
Then in the second quarter, RCTC blocked two punts that led to a pair of touchdowns on short drives.
“We did pretty much what we wanted in the first half,” Hintz said. “In the second half, we couldn’t do a thing. The guys battled in the first half and we played well.”
RCTC had lost 21-17 on the road to Minnesota West during the regular season, so Hintz knew the 20-point lead at the half wasn't safe.
Early in the third quarter, RCTC turned the ball over on downs at the Minnesota West 13 and 28. After that, they never threatened again and the game slowly slipped away.
"All three phases failed us in the second half, offense, defense and special teams,” Hintz said.
Minnesota West had one decent touchdown drive in the second half for a touchdown. But the Bluejays’ two touchdowns in the fourth quarter came on a 9-yard drive after a botched RCTC punt attempt and Kendrick Gordon’s 3-yard interception return for a touchdown when Maples had a pass tipped.
Gordon's pick-six gave Minnesota West the lead with 6:58 to play. The difference in the game turned out to be a 2-point conversion that Minnesota West converted after its first TD, in the second quarter.
Brock Starlley's play at quarterback helped spark Minnesota West in the second half. He threw a pair of TD passes after replacing Zumbrota's Willard Carl Holm at the half.
RCTC was running thin at several positions in the second half, including the offensive line, linebacker and the secondary.
“It was just a lack of depth,” Hintz said. “We had guys going down and we just didn’t have the depth.”
Both teams took advantage of mistakes and neither had a great offensive showing. RCTC had 232 yards of offense and Minnesota West had just 188.
Dylan Ingram finished with 120 yards rushing and a 6-yard TD run for RCTC. Brennan Brockel and Labasse Traore both had interceptions.
RCTC, which had its final game of the regular season called off due to COVID protocols, finishes the season 4-4.
“That’s the name of the game, there’s winners and there’s losers,” Bryant said. “Not everyone can be the champion.”
Minnesota West 29, RCTC 28
Minnesota West 0-8-7-14 — 29
RCTC 14-14-0-0 — 28
RCTC — Damario Richards 31 pass from Billy Maples (Ethan Forthun kick), 10:07.
RCTC — Maples 9 run (Forthun kick), 6:44.
RCTC — Dylan Ingram 6 run (Forthun kick), 12:20.
MW — Ian Stamer 13 pass from Willard Carl Holm (Tommy Lais Pass from Bailey Cowell), 6:56.
RCTC — Myanza McCain 3 pass from Maples (Forthun kick), 2:06.
MW — Stamer 14 pass from Brock Starlley (Mike Peralta kick), 5:08.
MW — Cowell 5 pass from Starlley (Peralta kick), 10:49.
MW — Kendrick Gordon 3 interception return (Peralta kick), 6:58.
First downs 13 — 11
Total net yards 188 — 232
Rushes-yards 30-59 — 43-145
Passing yards 129 — 87
Pass att.-comp.-int. 11-29-2 — 8-16-1
Fumbles-lost 2-0 — 3-1
Punts-Ave. 6-25.7 — 5-26.6
Penalties-yards 12-85 — 14-152
Minnesota West — Rashard Andeson 19-63, Brock Starlley 6-30, Willard Carl Holm 5-(-34). RCTC — Dylan Ingram 28-120, Moses Hancock 4-13, Billy Maples 4-8, Yaach Chuol 2-5, Justin Lynn 5-(-1).
Minnesota West — Willard Carl Holm 5-15, 61 yards, 1 TD, 2 int; Brock Starlley 6-14, 68 yards, 2 TDs. RCTC — Billy Maples 3-9, 45 yards, 1 TD, 1 int.; Justin Lynn 5-7, 42 yards.
Minnesota West — Ian Stammer 3-47, Tommy Lais 3-25, Bailey Cowell 3-17, Rashard Anderson 2-39. RCTC — Myanza McCain 4-20, Damario Richards 2-42. Darrius Washington 2-25.