Aitkin football seniors

The seniors on the Aitkin High School football team this year are, front from left, Tony Petrick, Hunter Hills, Jeremiah Smythe, Austin Price, Andy Hays; back row – Caitlyn Connor, Layne Baumann, Caiden Kjelstrom, Jake Ince, Owen Miller, Hunter Nissen and Joey Simonson.

On a cold and breezy evening, the Aitkin Gobblers came out to the strains of AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” in what unexpectedly turned out to be the final game of the season.

The Gobblers literally ran over Virginia, 56-6, in the Section 7AAA semifinals Nov. 20, a game moved up a day because of Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency order shutting down sports last week.

The Gobblers rushed for over 500 yards, led by Owen Miller’s 240 yards and four touchdowns.

Aitkin finished 6-1 on the season and one game short of the section title. The Gobblers would have met Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin in the title game, a team they had throttled 38-0 earlier in the season.

Coach Alan Hills said that the game was a unique situation, knowing when the team’s final game would be.

“We wanted our seniors to go out on a high note,” Hills said. “Our section was the only one in AAA that didn’t feel that we should play a number one against number two for the section title, which was disappointing, and our guys wanted to show everyone who the top team was,” he added.

Aitkin scored first, going 60 yards in a little more than four minutes. Miller scored the first of his touchdowns on a 12-yard run, followed by the 2-point conversion run by Austin Price.

After the two teams traded turnovers, Miller went 69 yards on the second play of the drive for a 14-0 edge. The conversion failed, and that was the score after the first quarter.

The Gobblers scored twice in the second quarter, as Austin Price got the first of his two touchdowns. Price was set up by a Jaelen Williams’ fumble recovery at the Blue Devils’ 36-yard line.

Price ran in from 6 yards out, making it 20-0 with 8:58 left in the half. Hunter Nissen, who rushed for 109 yards in the game, got the last Gobbler tally of the half on a 10-yard run with just 25.8 seconds before the half. Another failed conversion made it 26-0 at the half.

The Gobblers got the third period going in style, as Miller went 26 yards, culminating an eight-play, 89-yard drive to make it 32-0.

Caiden Kjelstrom hit Williams for the conversion and it was 34-0 five minutes into the second half.

Two plays later, Virginia found the end zone for its only score, but it was still 34-6 and the Gobblers were not done. Three minutes later, Jake Ince got into the scoring column on a 7-yard run. Price ran the conversion and the score mounted to 42-6.

Jeremiah Smythe picked off an errant Jack Toman pass and Aitkin was in business again as the third period ended. Aitkin used the pickoff to move down the field and Miller scored on a 4-yard run. The conversion failed and it was 48-6.

The Gobblers had one more message to send to the Blue Devils. With a little over two minutes to go, they moved downfield in a hurry and Price finished it off with a 1-yard run and the conversion for the final score.

The stats for the game were overwhelming. Aitkin had 518 yards on the ground and 55 through the air for 573 total yards, to just 155 yards for Virginia.

Miller had 240 yards on 21 carries, but he had help, with Nissen gaining 110 yards on 11 carries and Price picking up 92 yards on 17 carries.

Kjelstrom was 4 for 9 for 55 yards in the air. The defense was led by Jack MacDonald with three tackles and six assists, including three tackles for loss. Nissen had two tackles and six assists and Price had three tackles, two assists, one sack and one tackle for loss.

Virginia      0   0   6   0   – 6

Aitkin     14 12 16 14  – 56

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