The Cambridge-Isanti Bluejacket football team has started off its season with mixed results, posting a 1-1 record. While the team’s offense, specifically the running game, is already in mid-season form, the defensive unit has admittedly some work to do yet.
“We are running the ball well,” said head coach Mike Hennen. “The offensive line is blocking well and creating some impressive rushing numbers.”
Sophomore Ryley Nelson has led the way for the Jackets, compiling more than 200 yards in each game. Assisting Nelson in his efforts are quarterback Austin Schlenker and four returning starters on the offensive line – Caleb Skiba, Brandon Westberg, Luke Johnson, and Thomas Blumer.
Schlenker is leading the team on both offense and defense. “He has done an excellent job running the offense and defense,” Hennen said. “He has been a great leader in the huddles and on the field.”
For the first game of the season, Schlenker said the Bluejackets knew St. Cloud Apollo was going to pass the ball a lot and had a good quarterback.
“We were a little rusty,” he added. “We had to get the rust off with that first game, then we played a lot better defense (against Duluth East).”
Nelson agreed, noting the offense played well in the Apollo game, but the team “needed to tune things up on defense.”
Between the Apollo game and the game against Duluth East, the team worked to fine-tune the defense and further improve its offense.
“We played good – better than the first game – all around the ball,” Nelson said of the game against Duluth East.
Schlenker noted that Duluth East was a beatable team, and the Bluejackets just had to play their game.
“We thought we could pass the ball, but then, once we started running, it was working,” he said.
Hennen agreed that the Bluejackets played better all around the ball during the Duluth East game.
“Defensively, we played much better against the run, but still have some work to do on our pass defense,” he said. “Offensively, we have been moving the ball, and against Duluth were able to finish drives and put points on the scoreboard.”
The team is looking forward to the rest of the season, working extremely hard both on and off the field, according to Hennen.
This year’s team has come together well, more so than last year, Schlenker said, noting that it feels more like a family in the locker room. Everyone is talking and communicating about what is going well and what needs to be improved upon.
“They are a tight-knit family that has each other’s backs,” Hennen said. “We made some great strides from week one to week two and are hoping to continue to improve.”
The upcoming game against Elk River is going to be a tough one. “They’re going to be good,” Schlenker said. “They run the ball a lot and are really good.”
“I think we can do well as long as we are disciplined,” Nelson said.
As for the rest of the season, the team needs to be able to throw the ball when it wants to and play better pass defense, Hennen noted. “If we can improve these areas, we will be a tough opponent,” he said.
Schlenker agreed, saying, “We need to stay tough and work hard.” He also noted the team should not get down on itself too hard when it loses, because the teams it will be facing are good teams.
“We have arguably one of the toughest districts in the state for 5A football,” Hennen said. “St. Michael-Albertville, Rogers and Elk River are all currently ranked in the top 10, and St. Francis is receiving votes to join this prestigious group of teams. We will get a battle every week from now on out.”
The ultimate goal of the team is to win more games in the playoffs this year than in recent years, Schlenker said.