The Bluejacket football team was extremely demoralized at the conclusion of their regular season home finale against the Andover Huskies on Friday, Nov. 6. It wasn’t because of losing the game by a predictable margin of 43-6 that was the cause of the sombre mood. Instead, it was due to the loss of one of their teammates to a severe leg injury that was pretty gruesome for those in attendance to witness.
During a kickoff return early in the fourth quarter, junior standout wide receiver Braden Jones was knocked off balance, causing him to land awkwardly on one leg, resulting in what was obviously (by both sight and sound) a severely broken leg. As the entire stadium waited for the ambulance to come and transport Jones to the hospital, the magnitude of the injury - both to Jones himself but also to the Jackets’ offensive game plans - became agonizingly clear.
Jones was having an incredible year on the field, having hauled in all five of C-I’s touchdown passes on the season, not to mention other key first downs or just big plays in general. And while C-I touts other quality receivers, the loss of Jones will be felt in their last regular season game and into the section tournament.
As for the game itself, the first quarter featured an invigorated Jacket defense, fresh off their late game goal-line stand that secured C-I’s first win of the season the week before. While the Huskies put together a long opening drive, the Jacket defense buckled down and stopped a fourth-and-ten attempt on C-I’s 26 yard line. The results were similar on Andover’s second series, resulting in a 0-0 score at the end of the first quarter.
But that’s when the wheels came off of the Jackets’ defense, or perhaps Andover’s offense simply found their groove. In the course of four playing minutes, Andover scored three times to take a commanding 21-0 lead. And if it wasn’t for a pair of Huskies fumbles deep in Bluejacket territory, the halftime lead could have been even greater.
C-I’s opening drive of the second half resulted in their only touchdown of the game as a 75-yard drive, with most of the yardage coming from senior running back Gaven Ziebarth, was punctuated by an eight-yard touchdown run by quarterback Connor Braaten to make the score 21-6.
But that’s all the momentum the Jackets could muster as Andover scored three more times to create the final 43-6 score.
C-I’s last regular season game was to be played at Buffalo on Wednesday, Nov. 11, however that game was canceled by Buffalo. After having several attempts to find a new opponent reach dead ends, C-I Activities Director Mark Solberg found yet another highly ranked opponent in the form of #5 ranked Tartan. The Jackets will now play the Titans at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12 at Tartan.
Then the section playoffs begin. Since St. Francis has pulled out of all of their remaining games, the Jackets, along with Andover, Coon Rapids and Duluth East, will advance to the section semifinals, which will be held at the higher seeds on Thursday, Nov. 19. The finals are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 28, also at the highest remaining seed’s home field. But that is where it ends as the MSHSL has canceled all fall sports’ state tournaments.
North Branch, Braham canceled
Both the North Branch Vikings and Braham Bombers had their games last week canceled due to COVID-19, but for different reasons.
Braham once again had a game get canceled at the last minute, with this one coming via Barnum allegedly having a player test positive. Braham’s final regular season game was at home versus Chisolm on Wednesday, Nov. 11.
With North Branch, it was the Vikings who had to pull out of not only their game at Duluth East, but also their final game at Duluth Denfeld (who also had pulled out of their game against Proctor last Friday). The North Branch varsity is reportedly being quarantined for 14 days after coming in close contact with a person who tested positive. They hope to be able to come out of quarantine in time to play in their section semifinal game on Nov. 21 as, like C-I, North Branch’s section only currently has four teams able to play in the postseason after Chisago Lakes canceled all sports until Jan. 4 at the earliest.