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Yellowjackets brace for playoffs

It is time for the Rochester Community and Technical College football team to take its game up another notch.

The Yellowjackets, ranked 13th in the nation among junior college teams, will put their 9-0 mark on the line when they host Mesabi Range in the Minnesota Conference Athletic Conference state semifinals at 1 p.m. Saturday at Rochester Regional Sports Stadium. The winner advances to the state championship game on Nov. 6.

"The stakes are huge now because it's the playoffs,"  RCTC coach Derrick Hintz said. "It's one and done time. We have to play with a sense of urgency, every down, every series, every play."

Hintz expects the Yellowjackets to be ready, and insists the team has yet to play to its full potential this season despite having outscored foes 300-80.

"I still don't believe we've played a full 60 minutes of Yellowjackets football," he said.

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RCTC defeated Mesabi Range 24-13 back on Oct. 1 in Virginia, Minn. Hintz calls the Norsemen "a very athletic team."

Defensively, Mesabi Range (5-4) uses a 3-4 attack and the Norsemen like to blitz. Hintz hopes to take advantage of the team's aggressive nature.

"They're not afraid to takes chances," Hintz said.

RCTC can make a team pay for any defensive slip-up. Sophomore quarterback Kramer Berg is coming off a career-best 321-yard passing game in a win over Minnesota West. Berg also threw three touchdown passes in the game and has 19 for the season with just three interceptions.

"He did a great job," Hintz said of Berg's play last week. "The thing about Kramer is he makes great decisions. He's got to continue that this week."

Hintz said the RCTC offensive line has to be strong and help the team establish the running game. RCTC relies on a balanced ground attack. Sam Alakija had 72 yards and a touchdown a week ago. Zach Brown leads the team with 376 yards this season followed by Alexander Schliesmann with 296 yards.

"We have a bunch of guys who can do it and get the job done," Hintz said.

Offensively, Mesabi Range likes to run a spread offense and has a balanced attack with just 77 more yards passing than rushing this season.

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"They'll throw everything at you but the kitchen sink," Hintz said.

Both teams also feature solid return games on special teams. Mesabi Range had a long punt return down the RCTC 1 in the first meeting between the two teams.

BJ Hendrix has averaged 38.7 yards on six kick returns for RCTC while Jay Peoples has averaged 14.6 yards on 11 punt returns.

Allen Washington (42.0 average) and Kenneth Brandon (39.4) are strong kick returners for Mesabi while Jeremy Massey (20.0) and Ocie Salter (19.2) have excelled at returning punts.

"Whoever is going to play the most disciplined brand of football is going to win," Hintz said.

Saturday's winner will face the winner of the Northland and Ridgewater game for the state championship.

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