Area Football: Aitkin gobbles up yardage to beat Rangers

CROSBY — It ended just like it began Friday, Oct. 16.

The Aitkin Gobblers methodically took the opening drive of their Northeast Blue Subdistrict game against the Crosby-Ironton Rangers and went 55 yards on 14 plays.

Senior Owen Miller, who rushed for 126 yards and also had an interception on defense, capped off the drive with a 2-yard run and the Gobblers went on to defeat the Rangers 30-6.

The opening drive wasn’t flashy. It did have big plays in the form of an 11-yard pass from Caiden Kjelstrom to Joey Simonson on third and 16. There was a 16-yard pass from Kjelstrom to Jake Ince on second and 15 and an Ince 7-yard run on fourth down that kept the drive going for almost eight minutes of the first quarter.

Then Miller capped it off with the first of his two touchdowns.


“We have a veteran team coming back from last year after playing in the section final,” Aitkin head coach Alan Hills said. “We have a little bit of everything. Owen Miller gives us all kinds of things both inside and out. Austin Price is a little bit of a hammer for us.

“We’re running an eighth-grade offense right now with the wishbone. It puts our best athletes on the field and to be successful you want your best players out there. Right now that’s what is working. We’ll probably transition to some other things, but I’m just really proud of this group.”

The Gobblers forced C-I to punt on its opening drive and then went right back to work with a 10-play, 76-yard drive. Miller’s 5-yard run was the exclamation point.

Aitkin’s second drive was highlighted by a gutsy call on fourth and one on their own 33-yard line. Austin Price, who rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown, barreled through the line for a 4-yard gain. Hunter Nissen’s 39-yard run was the explosive play that helped the Gobblers to a 14-0 lead

“We’re pretty methodical,” Hills said. “And, like I said, it seems like an eighth-grade offense, but there’s a point of why do something else if it’s working. It’s just fun to watch when you get a group of guys like this that is working hard together.”

The Gobblers’ final drive came after a fumble recovery on their own 28. An unsportsmanlike penalty pushed the starting point of the drive to the Gobbler 14, but Aitkin used the extra yardage to eat up the majority of the fourth-quarter clock. This time Price finished off an 11-play, 86-yard drive with his 5-yard TD run.

In total, Aitkin outgained the Rangers 331-171 to improve to 2-0.

“We were trying to set the edge on them,” Hills said about Aitkin’s defensive strategy. “(Kale) Dugan did a great job of getting outside and bouncing things out. Our inside guys did a great job, but he was able to get the edge on us a few times. We were trying to keep him contained. He carried the load from them last week against Mesabi. I don’t know that we completely stopped him. He had a pretty nice game, but we eliminated the big plays, which was key.”


With time winding down in the second quarter, C-I faced a fourth and one at their 46. Kale Dugan, who led C-I with 76 rushing yards and caught two passes for 15 more yards, failed to pick up the 1 yard needed.

Aitkin turned around and in just three plays scored on a 34-yard Kjelstrom to Ince touchdown with 40 seconds left in the half for a 22-0 halftime edge.

“I felt like we got a good push on the play,” C-I head coach Bryan Syrstad said. “We just didn’t get the spot. Yes, I would do it again. In that situation, we’re down 14-0 and we’re in the middle of the field. I felt like we were building a little momentum running the ball and I felt like Dugan was running hard and our line did get a push. Yeah, I would do it again.”

C-I rallied in the second half, A 35-yard Gabe Kramer kick return ignited the 150 Ranger fans of the 250 people at John Davies Field. While C-I’s first drive of the second half stalled at Aitkin’s 18, a Jake Klancher fumble recovery at Aitkin’s 31 returned the ball to the Rangers. Eight plays later, Landon Erickson lofted a pass to 6-foot-4 Dietrich Winegarner for the Rangers only score.

“At halftime, we just told our defensive line to get lower and not get driving back into the second tier of the defense,” Srystad said. “Our guys did a better job of that. We did make some adjustments up front, but we just needed to set the edge and make tackles.

“Aitkin was just able to put a drive together every time we made a mistake. You can’t do that if you want to be successful.”


Aitkin 8 14 0 8 -- 30
Crosby-Ironton 0 0 6 0 -- 6

First quarter
A-Owen Miller 2 run (Jake Ince run) 4:31

Second quarter
A-Miller 8 run (run failed) 7:33
A-Ince 34 pass from Caden Kjelstrom (Miller run) 0:40

Third quarter
CI-Dietrich Winegarner 5 pass from Landon Erickson (run failed) 1:44


Fourth quarter
A-Austin Price 5 run (Jack Grell run ) 2:20

Team statistics
Rushes-yards: A 52-270, CI 26-113
Pass comp-att-int-yds: A 3-4-0-61, CI 6-12-1-58
Total offense: A 56-331, CI 38-171

Individual leaders
Rushing: A-Owen Miller 18-124, Austin Price 21-111, Hunter Nissen 1-39, Jack Grell 1-3, Jake Ince 2-6, Caiden Kjelstrom 2-(-10), team 3-(-3); CI-Kale Dugan 15-76, Landon Erickson 6-9, Gabe Kramer 3-26, Cameron Durant 1-3, Team 1-(-1)
Passing: A-Kjelstrom 3-4-61 ; CI-Erickson 6-12-58
Receiving: A-Ince 1-34, NIssen 1-16, Joey Simonson 1-11; CI-Dietrich Winegarner 3-31, Kramer 1-12, Dugan 2-15

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at

Aitkin 30, Crosby-Ironton 6


Key: Aitkin rattled off 52 plays for 331 yards of offense

Overall: A 2-0 CI 1-1

Next: Aitkin at Mora 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23; Crosby-Ironton at Moose Lake-Willow River 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22.

Rivalry revisited

2019: Aitkin 30, C-I 6
2018: C-I 20, Aitkin 16 (Aitkin beat C-I 34-6 in Section 7-2A quarterfinals)
2017: Aitkin 20, C-I 14
2016: Aitkin 20, C-I 14
2015: Aitkin 21, CI 20 OT
2014: CI 14, Aitkin 12
2013: Aitkin 35, CI 18
2012: C-I 16, Aitkin 10
2011: C-I 18, Aitkin 15 (CI beat Aitkin 20-15 in the Section 7-2A quarterfinals)
2010: C-I 46, Aitkin 0
2009: C-I 40, Aitkin 14

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