The Cambridge-Isanti football team dug itself a hole early in its season-opening contest against Elk River on Friday, Sept. 3.

The Bluejackets mishandled the opening kickoff and were forced to start their first drive on their own 3. Playing in the shadow of their own goalpost, C-I was forced to punt, and a short punt gave the Elks the ball on their 30, and they scored just a few plays later.

By the end of the first quarter the Bluejackets trailed 14-0, and they needed a score with just 15 seconds left in the first half to cut their halftime deficit to 20-7. By game’s end, Elk River had run for 363 yards and six touchdowns to claim a 40-14 victory.

“Elk River does what they do, especially on offense, and they’re good at it,” Cambridge-Isanti coach Shane Weibel said. “We made mistakes all over the field, especially offensively, and that hurt us.

“We did do some good things: We didn’t turn the ball over, we won time of possession, and we had several big plays. But when you play Elk River, you can’t make mistakes.”

Offensively the Bluejackets struggled much of the night, but they did manage a pair of touchdown drives. Both were capped by touchdown passes from senior Ari Sullivan to senior Braden Jones. The pair connected on a 19-yard scoring strike with 15 seconds left in the first half, then teamed up for an 11-yard TD toss with 2:58 left in the game.

Sullivan completed 7-of-15 passes for 67 yards, with Jones catching five of those passes for 57 yards. On the ground senior Ryan Cooper led the way with 65 yards on 11 rushes.

“We have some new starters, but these are guys who have been around,” Weibel said. “We need to fix all of the little mistakes, blocking assignments and stuff. We just need more reps.”

Defensively the Bluejackets surrendered 363 yards, all on the ground, on 45 rushes for an average of 8.1 yards per rush. Elk River had TD runs of 11 and 54 yards in the first quarter; after that C-I forced the Elks to drive for their scores, but the touchdowns came on runs of 1, 1, 9 and 4 yards.

“Defensively, I thought we played a decent game,” Weibel said. “But in their offense, they are able to isolate guys against one defender, and if that defender misses [the tackle], they’re off to the races.

“And it’s a physical offense, so the longer time our defense is on the field, they get banged up and tired.”

Senior Adam Hamed led the defense with 9.5 tackles, including seven solo stops, while Jones and senior Colton Skoglund added four tackles each.

Cambridge-Isanti will be on the road this week, traveling south to face St. Francis on Friday, Sept. 10, in a game that will kick off at 7 p.m.

“St. Francis, and the ‘Battle for the Paddle,’ is up next,” Weibel said. “We haven’t had [the paddle] since 2017, and we didn’t get to play for it last year.

“We need to move forward and get ready for that next game.”

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