Editor's note: some of the information in this article has been updated from our physical edition to account for scheduling changes brought on by Minnesota Governor's Tim Walz's mandate to shut down all youth sports.
For every game this season, the collective eyes of Cambridge-Isanti’s opponents’ defenses have been fixed on a single target - stopping Bluejacket runningback Gaven Ziebarth. And much to Bluejacket fans’ dismay, they have been largely successful in containing the Division I recruit. That is until the last regular season game, where the senior exploded for 220 yards on 23 carries and four rushing touchdowns, plus adding a fifth receiving score to enable the Jackets to upset previously unbeaten Tartan.
Perhaps it was the mere 48 hours for Tartan to prepare for Ziebarth that made the difference. The two schools agreed to meet each other on Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 10, after multiple other schools first agreed, then immediately had to back out of facing C-I. The Jackets were originally scheduled to play Buffalo, but the Bison pulled out of the rest of their season due to COVID.
But whatever the reason was for Gaven’s success, it came at the perfect time as the upset win - just C-I’s second of the season compared to four losses, catapulted C-I into the second seed of the abbreviated Section 7AAAAA tournament. It also is sure to give the Jackets a moral boost heading into the playoffs.
In the game, Tartan and C-I exchanged scores throughout the first half, with the Titans striking first and the Jackets quickly responding each time, with two of them on long runs of 38 and 66 yards by Ziebarth. The third score of the game was Ziebarth’s shortest, three yards to tie the score at 20-20 at halftime.
After a scoreless third quarter, it was C-I’s turn to take the lead, with Ziebarth dashing in from 18 yards out. A missed extra point made the score 26-20 in favor of the Jackets with 9:25 remaining in the game. That lead only lasted three minutes as Tartan responded with a long TD run of their own, followed by a successful extra point to give the Titans a one point lead.
That set up more late-game dramatics for C-I as a Connor Braaten pass to Ziebarth resulted in a 31-yard score with just 47 seconds remaining. Ziebarth then put the icing on the cake with a successful two-point conversion to make the final score 34-27 in favor of C-I.
The win also gives C-I home field advantage for the section semifinals, where they will host Coon Rapids at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19. There are only three teams remaining in the section as both Duluth East and St. Francis previously canceled their remaining games. Undefeated Andover was given the #1 seed and following Minnesota Governor Tim Walz's shutting down all youth sports as of midnight on Friday, Nov. 20, was declared the section champion. This means the C-I versus Coon Rapids game became in essence a battle for section runner-up.
Bombers dominate Bluestreaks
Braham was able to even their record for the season in their final game of the regular season, a 52-10 lopsided win over winless Chisholm at Braham on Wednesday, Nov. 11.
The Bombers dominated every aspect of the game, outgaining Chisholm 388 yards to 69. Carson Shockman did a majority of the damage, scoring five touchdowns on 18 carries, and over tripling the Bluestreaks’ offensive output with 204 yards on the ground.
Quarterback Hayden Lee added to the carnage by completing both of his pass attempts for touchdowns, with one going to Lyle Nelson and the other going to Nate Fiedler.
Almost all of the scoring took place in the first half, with Braham racking up a 46-3 lead. Both teams scored once in the third quarter, with the entire fourth quarter being run-time.
Braham’s .500 record gave them the #4 seed in Section 7A, where they were scheduled to face Barnum on Tuesday, Nov. 17 in the quarterfinals. A win there would most likely send them on to face #1 seed Deer River on Saturday, Nov. 21 in Deer River. The section championship is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 27 at Mesabi Sports Complex in Virginia.
Vikings back in action
Barring any COVID setbacks, the North Branch Vikings will return to the field just in time for the Section 7AAAA playoffs on Thursday, Nov. 19 as the #3 seed. Like Cambridge-Isanti’s section, North Branch’s has dwindled down to just three teams after Chisago Lakes, Hibbing, and Duluth Denfeld all had their seasons end prematurely.
The end result is with a 2-2 record, the Vikings will face Cloquet, who has been battling their own COVID issues the second half of the season en route to a 3-3 record. The game will be played at Proctor. The winner of that game will be declared section runner-up as #1 seed Hermantown was declared the champion since no games can be played after Friday night, Nov. 20.