In Cambridge-Isanti’s long and illustrious football history, the Jackets have produced a number of high-caliber college recruits, with a select number of them playing for Division I programs. Within their most recent history, however, none of those players were at skilled positions such as quarterback, running back, or wide receiver. That trend was stopped last Wednesday, Dec. 16, as standout running back Gaven Ziebarth put pen to paper and accepted a scholarship offer to play for the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks.
Although it was made official during National Signing Day a week ago, Ziebarth, who came into his senior season ranked as one of the top running backs in the state, knew he was destined to play D1 football quite a while ago, verbally committing to the Fighting Hawks last June. He had also received D1 scholarship offers from both Army and Air Force.
“It felt like home,” Ziebarth said of the UND campus. “The coaches were really interested in me, and I had a good relationship with them, so that ultimately led to my decision.
“It’s a lot of excitement (officially signing),” he added. “I’ve been waiting for this a long time as a kid.”
Just looking at his numbers, its easy to see why D1 schools showed an interest in him. According to head coach Shane Weibel, Ziebarth finished his Bluejacket career in seventh place all-time in career rushing yards with 2,584, and sixth all-time in career touchdowns with 29.
His senior season, he rushed for 1,092 yards and 12 touchdowns in just seven games, which was more like six games after he had to leave the Chisago Lakes game with an apparent head injury in the first quarter.
It was that injury, however, that seemed to kick start his season. In the three games before, Ziebarth was relatively held in check by defenses keying on him. After only being able to pick up 83 yards against Waseca, he did rush for 191 yards and one touchdown versus Monticello and 160 yards and two touchdowns versus Hutchinson. However, much of those yards and scores came later in the games after the score had become lopsided.
For the last two games of the season, Ziebarth exploded for 220 yards and four touchdowns versus Tartan and then topped that with a 307 yard, five touchdown finale in the section semifinals versus Coon Rapids. As best as anyone with historical knowledge of the program can remember, the five touchdowns in a single game is a school record.
“I was pretty upset (during the Chisago Lakes game) because I couldn’t play, and it was my last season so I really didn’t want to sit there,” he said regarding being motivated after the injury.
Ziebarth, however, didn’t take total credit for the successful last games.
“The whole team came together and played better,” he said. “I don’t think it was just me. It was my line blocking better.”
While his high school football career is now over, Ziebarth’s high school athletic career still has a little life left. Ziebarth, who during his sophomore season was actually a four-sport athlete as he played hockey during the winter and baseball and track - where he was a medal winner in three events - during the spring, said he is planning on still playing hockey for the Jackets and running in track this spring, COVID permitting.