The Aitkin Gobblers amassed 376 yards of total offense while holding the Duluth Denfeld Hunters to 58 total yards enroute to a 58-0 rout in the season opener Aug. 28. Owen Miller put the Gobblers on the scoreboard three minutes into the game with a 14-yard run, and Manni Uketegbe’s 7-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Cluff, along with Jake Ince’s 2-point conversion, made the score 14-0 after 12 minutes of action.
The Gobblers added three touchdowns in the second period. The first came on Joey Simonson’s 16-yard pass from Cluff. Kade Hopperstad tossed a two-point conversion to Uketegbe, giving Aitkin a 22-0 lead.
Gabe Long scored a pair of second quarter scores; the first came on a blocked punt by Uketegbe, the second on a 1-yard plunge. Hopperstad’s PAT conversion sent the Gobblers to a 36-0 halftime lead.
A 34-yard run by Ince and a Carter Dox 29-yard scamper were part of a 98-yard drive, along with PAT conversions by Ince and Jon Blanchette, put the Gobblers up 52-0 after three quarters. Caiden Kjelstrom closed out the scoring with a five-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Miller rushed for 138 yards while Cluff was 3-4 passing for 39 yards. Dox finished the game with 82 yards on five carries and Austin Price rushed for 60 yards on nine carries. Hopperstad was in on 11 tackles while Dox, Uketegbe and Jackson MacDonald were credited with six tackles each. Miller, Kjelstrom and Ince had pass interceptions and Uketegbe was credited with a blocked punt.
“Our young offensive line was phenomenal,” said Coach Alan Hills, “and Austin Price opened gaping holes as a lead blocker.” The only negative that Hills commented on was the number of penalties. “We had nine for the game and need to clean that up when we play better opponents.”
Aitkin 14 22 16 6-58
Denfeld 0 0 0 0-0
Aitkin-Owen Miller 14 run (PAT failed)
Aitkin-Manny Uketegbe 7 pass from Kyle Cluff (Jake Ince run)
Aitkin-Joey Simonson 16 yd pass from Cluff (Uketegbe pass from Kade Hopperstad)
Aitkin-Gabe Long on blocked punt (PAT failed)
Aitkin-Long 1 run (Hopperstad run)
Aitkin-Ince 34 run (Ince run)
Aitkin-Carter Dox 29 run (Jon Blanchette run)
Aitkin Caiden Kjelstrom 5 run (PAT failed)
Defensive coordinator Sean Smith comments:
“Overall, we played well with very few missed assignments. Our pass coverage was fantastic – they didn’t catch a pass beyond the line of scrimmage, plus we had three interceptions. A lot of guys without a ton of experience stepped up and played really hard. Kade (Hopperstad) and Jon (Blanchette)were great leaders for the younger, less experienced players. Caiden Kjelstrom stepped in at safety for a banged up Kyle Cluff and had the biggest play of the night when he picked off the first pass play of the game. Our defensive special teams (punt return and kickoff) played great, too. We dominated the field position battle. They didn’t return a kick past their own 30, not to mention the two touchdowns from our punt return team. Overall, I was very happy with the effort and attitude of this defense. We have a lot to learn and work on, but I couldn’t ask for a better start. It’s always a point of pride to pitch a shutout.”