by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Boosted by two defensive touchdowns, plus three scoring runs by Moses Saygbe, the Elk River Elks beat longtime nemesis Cambridge-Isanti 44-36 on Friday evening.
The victory in Cambridge gives the Elks a 2-0 start, under new coach Steve Hamilton, for the first time since 2003.
During six lean seasons from 2005 through 2010, the Elks were 0-5 against the Bluejackets, four of those losses in playoff first-rounders. Last year, the Elks’ 0-9 slate included two drubbings by the Bluejackets.
In the 1980’s and previous decades when the two schools were usually in the same conference, the Bluejackets almost always won.
But not Friday night. The Elks roared to a 22-0 lead and saw the Bluejackets get back within eight three times but no closer. The game had a wild finish with each team scoring 22 points in the fourth quarter.
“That game was probably more fun for the fans than for us (coaches),” said Hamilton.
Most amazing statistic of the game: Cambridge-Isanti ran 82 plans and the Elks just 41, but the Elks won.
“They’d have these long, long drives, make a couple fourth downs, and score,” said Hamilton, “and then we’d score in one play.”
The Elks did it all on the ground with 253 yards in 40 rushes, led by Saygbe with 109 in 11 carries, Larson with 95 in eight, and Chambers with 50 in 21. Passing the ball they were 1-for-1 for two yards. But another weapon for the Elks was two long kick returns by Terry Hadden.
The Elks struck fast as Austin Larson rambled 59 yards on a counter play, setting up Saygbe’s four-yard touchdown just 59 seconds into the game.
The Elks stuffed a fourth-and-one run by the Bluejackets at midfield, then drove 54 yards, capped by Chambers’ two-yard run. Collins added two-point runs after both scores.
The Elks went up 22-0 when defensive lineman Jordan Meyer scooped up the ball in the end zone when the Bluejackets, on a third-and-20 play, threw a lateral that was deflected by Elk defensive back Alec Plaisted and rolled over the goal line.
The Bluejackets pulled together for a 79-yard drive to get on the board with Cole Bakke’s four-yard run with 8:24 left in the half, which would end 22-7.
In the second half, Bluejacket quarterback Clayton Jennissen would not let the Elks relax, even if they had a notion to which wasn’t likely. Jennissen would fire three touchdown passes.
The first of those, to Jordan Locken, covered 62 yards. That pulled the hosts within 22-14 and they were driving again when the Elks came up with a back-breaking defensive play.
Elk junior defensive back Conner Hanson picked off a pass and rambled 68 yards to score, with Chambers’ two-point run making it 30-14.
Hanson’s TD started a wild fourth period that saw each team score 22 points. Jennissen, undaunted, hit Ryan Epsen for a 35-yard score, then a conversion pass. Saygbe countered with a 32-yard dash to paydirt and Chambers dived in for the two-pointer.
The Jackets got a short TD from Chance Laidly but missed the PAT kick. Saygbe busted loose again, this one from 40 yards out, and the Elks led 44-30 with time running down. Jennissen had one more big strike in him, a 23-yard score to Travis Holt with just 30 seconds left.
The Elks, who ended a 16-game skid beating Big Lake 26-14 last week, currently lead the Mississippi 8 with a 2-0 mark. Rogers and STMA are each 1-0 plus a non-conference win. They’ll have their lone non-conference game next Friday with a long trip to Moorhead, a section rival.
Elk River 44, Cambridge-Isanti 36
Elk River ……………. 16 6 0 22 — 44
Cambridge-Isanti …. 0 7 7 22 — 36
ER–Moses Saygbe 4 run (Corey Collins run)
ER–Dylan Chambers 2 run (Collins run)
ER–Jordan Meyer fumble recovery in end zone (run failed)
CI–Cole Bakke 4 run (Josh Rouse kick)
CI–Jordan Locken 62 pass from Clayton Jennissen (Rouse kick)
ER–Conner Hanson 68 interception return (Chambers run)
CI–Ryan Epsen 35 pass from Jennissen (Epsen pass from Jennissen)
ER–Saygbe 32 run (Chambers run)
CI–Chance Laidly 2 run (kick failed)
ER—Saygbe 40 run (run failed)
CI–Travis Holt 23 pass from Jennissen (kick failed)
First downs — Elks 12, C-I 20
Rushing — Elks 42-253, C-I 53-256
Passing (cmp-att-yards-int) — Elks 1-1-2-0, C-I 17-28-234-1
Total offense — Elks 255, C-I 490
Penalties — Elks 6-54, C-I 9-79
Punts — Elksd 3-29.0, C-I 2-28.5
Elk River statistics
Rushing — Saygbe 11-109, Austin Larson 8-95, Chambers 12-50, Riley Filipovich 5-1, Collin 7-(-11)
Passing — Collins 1-1-2-0
Receiving– Filipovich 1-2
Rushing — Bakke 14-106, Trent Chromy 11-46, Jordan Lokken 7-43, Jennissen 11-33, Laidly -28
Passing — Jennissen 16-27-210-1
Receiving — Epsen 7-82, Holt 6-58, Lokken 1-62, Jonah Poppen 2-19, Mike Haddick 1-13