Football team co-champions in RMAC with 55-53 win over UNK

{gallery}1011/i10/football{/gallery}Chris Enger / Oredigger

It couldn’t have been scripted any better. Triple overtime. Senior Day. Parent’s weekend. RMAC title and playoff berth on the line. Mines faced 4th and 1 on the Nebraska-Kearney 5 yard line trailing by 6 in the third extra session. The Lopers defensive line and defensive back Sam Kuck had been dominating the ground game all day. So what does coach Bob Stitt do? He does what every coach does and calls a statue of liberty trick play. Clay Garcia rolled to his right to found a wide open Scott McManigal for the touchdown to tie the game. CSM now faced one of the biggest two-point conversions in their programs history. One three yard grab by Robbin Vinnola later, and Mines had claimed its first RMAC championship since 2004 by defeating #8 Nebraska-Kearney 55-53 Saturday at Campbell Field in Golden, CO.

For Vinnola, it was the peak of his incredible career for his final game in Golden. Vinnola finished the game with 11 receptions for 96 yards, a touchdown, and it was his presence on key plays that solidified the upset win. His 20 yard reception on 3rd and 20 kept a crucial drive alive in the second quarter, and his 6’4” frame snatched up an onside kick at the end of regulation that nearly iced the game for Mines. But it was the final play of the game that Vinnola will remember as his two-point conversion catch in triple overtime lifted the Orediggers to victory.

The victory gives Mines a share of the RMAC regular season championship, an award which CSM has not earned since the undefeated 2004 team that boasted Oredigger greats such as Jonny Chan and Harlon Hill Trophy winner Chad Friehauf. For this season, it was as if Friehauf had returned for the blue and silver as Garcia’s play has been emulated the CSM great. Garcia finished Saturday’s game with video game stats as he threw 40/61 for 417 yards and four touchdowns. His performance comes on the heels of being named one of 24 finalists for the Harlon Hill Trophy, the Division II equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. The only other CSM player to earn the award was Friehauf in 2004.

Alex Vigil led the Orediggers defense with 10 tackles as senior Marc Schiechl added 8 tackles and 2 critical sacks. For Schiechl, it was an amazing game to end a stellar career at Campbell and Brooks Fields. His two sacks extend his Division II record to 44.

The quote of the day belongs to Mines Internet Radio broadcaster Jake Stein calling the touchdown from Garcia to McManigal: “Garcia takes the snap. He fakes to Palmer, he’s going to run! He finds McManigal in the end zone! Touchdown! Touchdown Mines! Oh My! I think I just had a stroke!”

On offense, running back Dan Palmer struggled between the goal lines, but punched it in when it counted, finishing with 46 yards and 3 touchdowns. The 46 yards seem like a mediocre total for a starting running back, but each one of those yards were hard earned against one of the best defense fronts in the country and kept enough pressure off Garcia to give him room to throw.

On the receiving end, Jerod Doucet led the Orediggers with 8 catches for 114 yards; Cody Renken added 92 yards and a touchdown on 8 receptions as well.

The subplot of the game would have to be the special team’s play. The kicking game has struggled all year long, but true freshman kicker responded with a solid effort in the biggest game of the season. McVay connected on a 40 yard field goal in double overtime to keep CSM alive in the contest. McVay ended the day 2-2 on field goals and the 40 yard boot the second longest of his career. Punter Taylor Accardi continued his dominance, averaging 44.4 yards on 5 punts.

Before the game, the Orediggers were ranked 9th in the Central Super Region. The top 6 teams in the Super Region continue on to postseason play, with the exception of conference champions, who can be entered if they are in the top 8. The win should be good enough for CSM to crack the top 8, but their future rests on the regional rankings that come out Sunday November 14.

With the exception of two tough losses on the year, the 2010 football team has been nearly perfect. And although Mines loses 12 solid senior members: Garcia, Renken, and Palmer return next fall. The future for football is bright in Golden.

Copyright © 2020 The Oredigger Newspaper. All Rights Reserved.