by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
With two electrifying touchdown plays in the fourth quarter, one by the defense and one by the offense, the Zimmerman Thunder once again left Cambridge-Isanti exasperated on Thursday evening with a 12-7 conquest of the Bluejackets in the 2011 opener.
“The game was the most rewarding of my coaching career,” said Thunder coach Tom Kish. ” Cambridge was really gunning for us this year, and our guys rose to the challenge and pulled out the game.”
Cam Korlath scored on a fumble recovery on the third play of the fourth quarter and Collin Ashley blazed 74 yards with a screen pass from Ethan Lunning with seven minutes left. Meanwhile the Thunder defense held the Bluejackets to 115 net yards.
All of which added up to a third-straight victory by Zimmerman over Cambridge-Isanti, a bigger school with a great football tradition. This one was a non-conference win; the last two came in Mississippi 8 play.
Zimmerman left the M-8 this year to join a new conference, the Granite Ridge, where schools are more their size. Cambridge-Isantii wanted one more shot at Zimmerman, said Kish, and knew this would probably be their last chance.
“They take pride in really physical football, but Zimmerman does, too, and we don’t back down,” said Kish.
Next year, the Granite Ridge will add one more team. There’ll be just one non-conference slot for each school and the GRC is working with the Wright County Conference to fill that week. So this was probably the last time C-I can schedule Zimmerman.
The Bluejackets led 7-0 at halftime on a two-yard run by Trent Chromy, capping a 65-yard drive. The Thunder thought they had the Bluejackets stopped with a sack on a third-and-9 at the 15 but quarterback Clayton Jennissen escaped and ran to the three-yard-line.
It stayed 7-0 until early in the fourth quarter when Thunder linebacker Tony Obinger put a fierce hit on Jennissen with his fasemask knocking the ball loose. Korlath, another linebacker, scooped it up and chugged to the end zone.
The Thunder had no placekicker as Alex McGregor had a concussion in a JV game Wednesday and his backup Brandon Smith was cramping up. Their PAT pass failed, leaving them behind 7-6.
The Thunder forced a punt, then sprang the big play they’d been waiting for all night.
Ashley, speedy junior back, took a bubble screen from Lunning at the edge of the field on a play starting at the Thunder 26. He juked past one Bluejacket, and had an open field.
“It was just a straight run then, and nobody could catch him,” said Kish.
Again a two-pointer failed, a run this time, but the Thunder defense continued to hold, and an interception by Ashley sealed the deal in the final minute.
Lunning was 6-for-16 for 152 yards, and ran 11 times for 40 yards. The Lunning boys had a big night rushing as Noah gained 51 in four totes and Caleb 68 in six totes.
Zimmerman will host Little Falls next Friday in their GRC opener.
Zimmerman 12, Cambridge-Isantii 7
Cambridge-Isanti …. 0 7 0 0 — 7
Zimmerman………….. 0 0 0 12 — 12
CI–Trent Chromy 2 run (Josh Rouse kick)
Zim–Cam Korlath 25 fumble return (run failed)
Zim–Collin Ashley 74 pass from Ethan Lunning (pass failed)
First downs — Zimmerman 15, Cambridge-Isanti 8
Rushes — Zimmerman 50-229, Cambridge-Isanti 38-55
Passing (cmp-att-yards-int) — Zimmerman 6-16-134-1, Cambridge-Isanti 8-20-60-1
Total plays-yards — Zimmerman 66-363, Cambridge-Isanti 48-115
Fumbles-lost — Zimmerman 2-1, Cambridge-Isanti 2-1
Penalties-yards — Zimmerman 5-35, Cambridge-Isanti 5-35
Punts-average — Zimmerman 4-25.5, Cambridge-Isanti 9-31.7
Cambridge-Isanti individual stats
Rushing– Cole Bakke 8-19, Chromy 4-11, Clayton Jennissen 11-10, Jordan Locken 3-8, Chance Laidly 2-7
Passing — Jennissen 8-20-60-1
Receiving — Ryan Epsen 5-41, Travis Hol 2-10, Jonah Poppen 1-9
Tackles — Hold 11, Jennissen 8, Epsen 8, Bakke 7
Interception — Holt
Zimmerman individual statistics
Rushing — Ashley 10-56, E. Lunning 11-40, Noah Lunning 4-51, Caleb Lunning 6-68, Evan Bye 4-13, Jake Wilson 1-11, Brandon Smith 5-26
Passing — E. Lunning 6-16-152-1
Receiving– Ashley 2-96, C. Lunning 1-9, Bye 1-14, Wilson 1-5, Gabielson 1-11
Tackles — N. Lunning 6, Smith 6, Tyler Thiesen 5, Toby Obinger 5, Jake Antolak 5, Jeff Mueller 4, Cam Korlath 4
Sacks — Jeremy Slomker 2, Theisen 1
Interception — Ashley 1
Forced fumbles — Theisen, Obinger
Fumble recovery — Korlath