Yellowjackets are in to win
A berth in the North Star Bowl is nice, but the Rochester Community and Technical College football team isn't happy just to be playing one more game.
The Yellowjackets earned their third appearance to the Rochester bowl game in the three-year history of the event. The Division III non-scholarship RCTC squad will face Division II Iowa Central out of Ft. Dodge, Iowa, on Saturday at 1 p.m.
"I think our guys are excited," RCTC coach Brad LaPlante said. "In our program we want to get to that bowl game at the end of the year. We don't just want to get to the game, we want to win this one."
The Yellowjackets (10-1) figure to face a tough challenge against Iowa Central (6-3). The Tritons, who opened the season 0-2, have won their past four games and are ranked No. 18 in the nation. RCTC, which has a six-game winning streak after capturing the MCAC state championship, is ranked No. 12 in the nation.
"We've seen three game films on them and they're a talented group, no doubt," LaPlante said.
The Tritons feature a mammoth offense line. The starters are all between 290 and 320 pounds.
"Their size up front on their offensive line will be a concern for us," LaPlante admitted. "We're definitely going to have to rely on different fronts."
Iowa Central is primarily a running team. LaPlante said the Tritons are "going to run 90 percent of the time."
Running back Darrelynn Dunn has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and quarterback Terrance Johnson is also a threat to run.
"We need to make sure (Johnson) beats us with his arm, not his legs," LaPlante said.
The coach said RCTC interior defensive lineman Reggi Ibhaze, Chris Bahr and Breyon Cosey will play big roles along with inside linebackers Errik Manning and Josh LaPlante.
Offensively, LaPlante said the Yellowjackets need to move the chains and control the ball.
"The biggest thing offensively is we can't have three-and-outs because their offense will grind on us," LaPlante said.
Iowa Central doesn't blitz much on defense and plays a deep cover-3 in the secondary. The Tritons are also stingy against the run.
"As strong as they are against the run, we're probably going to have to throw the ball," LaPlante said. "Our offensive line is going to have to have a good game if we're going to win."
The good news is the Yellowjackets are a strong passing team. Quarterback Derick Heitkamp has thrown for 2,247 yards with a single-season school record of 28 touchdown passes. He's been intercepted nine times.
Wide receiver Chris Hicks has 32 catches for 836 yards and 14 TDs, while Isaac Fruechte has 29 grabs for 778 yards and eight TDs.
RCTC still has an outside shot of winning the Division III national championship (which goes to the top-ranked D-III team in the final JUCO poll). No. 3 Grand Rapids (Mich.) plays a bowl game against No. 7 Mississippi Gulf Coast, a scholarship team.
But No. 5 Nassua (N.Y.), a D-III team, is not playing in a bowl game.
Central Lakes, the team RCTC beat in the MCAC state title game, is 10-1 and ranked No. 15. Central Lakes is playing No. 19 Glendale (a scholarship team) in the Sun Bowl in Arizona.