9/26/2019 4:28:00 PM Wildcats score 48 unanswered to come back vs C-I
After spotting the Cambridge-Isanti Bluejackets a 16-0 lead in the first eight minutes of the game – and not looking very good doing it – the Wildcats responded with 48 straight points to crush the Bluejackets 48-16 last Friday, September 20 at Cambridge-Isanti High School. Quarterback Austin Siefert led the charge for the Wildcats, rushing for 224 yards and three touchdowns.
The game got off to a bad start almost immediately for the Wildcats. After the opening kickoff, Cambridge had the ball at their own 34-yard line. Gavin Ziebarth took the handoff, slipped a tackle in the backfield, went around right end and didn’t stop until he had run down the sideline 66 yards for a touchdown, just 18 seconds into the game. The extra point was good, and the Bluejackets led 7-0. The Wildcats went three-and-out on their first possession. On the ensuing Cambridge possession, the Bluejackets went for it on fourth and two from their own 48-yard line. The Wildcats stuffed the ball carrier for a one-yard loss and the Wildcats took over on the Bluejacket 47. Things were looking good.
Siefert ran for 11 yards on the next play but fumbled at the end of it and Cambridge recovered at their own 36-yard line. Ziebarth took off again around right and, but this time defensive back Nick Wasko caught Ziebarth from behind at the Wildcat 31 and made a touchdown-saving tackle. But the effect was only temporary. Five plays later, Ziebarth scored on an 18-yard run and the Bluejackets increase their lead to 14-0. The Wildcats went three-and-out on their next drive, as well, and were forced to punt from their own 24-yard line. The snap was good, but the line broke down and several Bluejackets came in though the breach. They blocked Zach Mueller’s punt so hard it bounded all the way out of the end zone for a safety, and the Bluejackets led 16-0 with 4:34 left in the first quarter.
After stopping Cambridge on their next possession, the Wildcats took over at their own 37. They moved the ball well, but Sailor Olson fumbled at the Bluejacket 31 on the first play of the second quarter and the Bluejackets recovered. Could it get any worse? Luckily, the answer is no! It only got better. On third and 12 from the 29, Bluejacket quarterback Connor Braaten rolled right and threw on the run. Kyle Byrne picked off the pass and returned it to the Wildcat 33-yeard line. On second and two from the 41, Siefert kept the ball and ran right. After a 15-yard gain, he turned on the afterburners and outran the Bluejacket defense down the right line for a touchdown. The Wildcats went for two, and David Kimlinger waltzed through a huge hole up the middle on a counter play. The Wildcats had cut the lead in half and now trailed 16-8.
The Wildcats squibbed the ensuing kickoff to try to keep the ball out of the hands of some dangerous Bluejacket return men. It worked like an onside kick, as Wildcat Mason Molde fell on the ball at the Cambridge 37. Seven plays later, on third and goal from the three, Siefert hit Paul Blake with touchdown pass. The Wildcats botched the two-point attempt, but now trailed just 16-14 with 4:38 left in the first half. After forcing a punt on the next Bluejacket possession, the Wildcats took over at their own 14 with 1:17 left in the half. On the next play, Siefert kept the ball and ran right. After gaining ten yards, he cut inside a would-be tackler and was off to the races, sprinting 86 yards for a touchdown and a 20-16 Wildcat lead.
To open the second half, a nice kickoff return by Wasko and a personal foul on the Bluejackets gave the Wildcats a first down at the Cambridge 48. Nice runs by Kaleb Bruce and Siefert led to a second and one at the six. Siefert kept the ball, ran just left of center and scored a TD. Spencer Nelson showed off a strong leg as the extra point split the uprights and the Wildcats now led 27-16 with ten minutes left in the third quarter. The rout was on. Kyle Byrne intercepted his second pass of the game and returned it to the Bluejacket 17. On second and ten, Hunter Kral took the handoff and burst through the middle, running 18 yards for a touchdown and a 34-16 Wildcat lead with nine minutes left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats added two more touchdowns. Nick Stone did a nice job corralling a bad pitch and scored from five yards out late in the third quarter. And Olson scored from 31 yards out to complete the scoring midway through the fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Will Saueressig got in some reps late in the fourth quarter and hit Stone with a 25-yard completion for the Wildcats’ longest pass play so far this season.
Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss said “I have only been part of a few games that flipped that fast. We had breakdowns in all three phases – defense, offense and special teams – that led to the early deficit. Our kids responded. They learned a lot about overcoming adversity. They kept their heads level, stuck with the plan and stuck with each other. Football is a game of momentum, and after our first score you could feel the momentum shift. As bad as the first quarter was, all of a sudden we were making plays on offense and taking the ball away on defense.”
Weiss talked about two of his top performers in the game. He said “Austin made really good decisions with the ball all night long. And on his two long runs, he found that extra gear and outran some people. And Kyle Byrne had a nice game. He’s got a nose for the ball, has good hands and knows how to high point the ball very well. He’s a solid defender who had a very solid game with two huge interceptions.”
Spencer Nelson blasted three extra points through the uprights, so it appears the Wildcats are well on their way to addressing the kicking issues that plagued them earlier in the season. Sailor Olson was the second-leading rush for the Wildcats, picking up 71 yards on 12 carries. Hunter Kral had 58 yards on nine carries as the Wildcats piled up 427 yards on the ground.
Football Notes The Wildcats (2-2) will head to Elk River to take on the Elks (4-0) tomorrow night at 7 p.m. “The Elks are a traditional powerhouse in our district,” said Weiss. “And they are at that level again this year. They are talented, well-coached and have a highly disciplined offense. We need to match that discipline and play assignment football on defense. It will be a good challenge. We had a good game with them last year and this will be another great opportunity to play a team of that caliber.”