AITKIN — The Gobblers lived up to their No. 1 seeding Friday night with a dominating 56-6 victory over No. 4-seeded Virginia in the Section 7AAA semifinals in Aitkin.
The Blue Devils had no answer for Owen Miller and the Aitkin running game.
Miller scored four times and ran for about 250 yards as the Gobblers went up and down their frozen home field to pick up the big win, which moved them to 6-1 on the COVID-19-shortened season.
The Aitkin defense was equally tough as they held Virginia to a third quarter touchdown pass from Jack Toman to Tom Nemanich, who are both seniors.
In addition, the six points given up was seven better than Aitkin’s 14.3 points per game against in their first six games.
The Gobblers got the ball first and went 55 yards on the drive for a touchdown, which proved to be foreshadowing of what was to come. Miller cashed in with a 12-yard touchdown run that put Aitkin up 6-0 just 4:21 into the contest.
Virginia (now 4-4) was forced to punt on its first drive before a roughing the punter call against Aitkin. The Devils got a 14-yard pass to Cole Schaefer and a Toman run before an exchange of interceptions, including one by Gavin Dahl. After runs by Nick Peters and Ryan Scherf, Toman was stopped short on third down and short.
It didn’t take long for the Gobblers to get on the board again as Miller took the handoff two plays later and broke free for a 69-scoring scamper and a 14-0 Aitkin advantage.
Virginia continued to struggle getting its offense going and later gave the ball back to the Gobblers just 36 yards from the end zone. Aitkin’s Austin Price ultimately cashed in on a six-yard run to make it 20-0 with 8:58 left in the second.
Virginia was then forced to punt, which led to an Aitkin drove to the 15. However, Aitkin came up empty on a fourth and one as Ryan Manninen stopped the Gobbler runner for a 2-yard loss.
The Devils was stifled once again by the Aitkin defense, which seemed to inspire the Gobblers. The home team took over on the Virginia 39, and drove to the 11 before Hunter Nissen found pay dirt on an 11-yard run, which put Aitkin up 26-0 just before intermission.
Virginia was pumped up to start the third on a 13-yard Toman pass to Peters and three runs by Scherf. However, the drive again stalled out again.
Miller and Aitkin took over again and the Gobblers senior cashed in with a 25-yard touchdown run to make it 34-0 with 7:51 left in the third. The rush pushed Miller over 200 yards at that point in the contest.
Virginia came right back with a 42-yard pass from Toman to Landin McCarty, which put the ball at the Aitkin 11. One player later Toman hit Nemanich and Virginia was on the board at 34-6.
That was basically all the offense the Devils could muster as the Gobblers tacked on two more touchdowns to come away with the 56-6 victory.
The game was the final contest for both teams before Gov. Tim Walz's executive order was slated to go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday. The order included a four-week high school sports pause through Dec. 18.
Virginia 0 0 6 0 — 6
Aitkin 14 12 16 14 — 56
A: Owen Miller 12 run (Austin Price run)
A: Miller 69 run (pass fails)
A: Austin Price 6 run (pass fails)
A: Hunter Nissen 11 run (run fails)
A: Miller 25 run (Jalen Williams pass from Caiden Kjelstrom)
V: Tom Nemanich pass from Jack Toman (pass fails)
A: Jake Ince 8 run (Price run)
A: Miller 4 run (pass fails)
A: Price 1 run (Price run)