Mark Solberg has been the athletic director at Cambridge-Isanti High School since 1999. Before that, he was a football coach, including as the head coach between the two tenures of George Larson, the legendary leader of the Bluejackets.
Larson coached Cambridge from 1958 though 1993. Five school years later, Solberg was offered the job as athletic director, with the caveat that he give up football.
“I was told that I had 25 minutes to make up my mind,” Solberg said. “I went with athletic director.”
Then, Solberg quickly hired a replacement as head football coach: Larson. George returned, lost in the state finals to Mankato West in 1999, won a third state title in 2000 and retired with three state titles.
“I came here in the ’80s and I’ve been hearing about the one Cambridge didn’t get a chance to win since then,” Solberg said. “Those 1974 guys … they are in their 60s now and I think they still wake up in the morning upset about it.”
For all the football people upset about the current system, with conferences being replaced by often far-reaching sections in seven classes, you must return to Minnesota’s playoff roots to find truly screwy.
The playoffs started in 1972 with Class AA, A, B, C and 9-Man. Conference champions were rated by a computer. The official state tournament was four teams per class.
This was preceded by four games called the “interconference eliminations.” Except, the teams’ résumés still were run through the computer after those games to set the four-team field.
Chaska had won a nonconference contest vs. Cambridge, 20-6, in the second game of the season. As conference champions, they played again in the elimination round, and Cambridge romped 28-6.
Three winners of Class A elimination games advanced: Fridley (Totino) Grace, Alexandria and Albany, but the computer spit out Chaska (9-1) over Cambridge (9-1) as the fourth team in the field. Alexandria wound up defeating Chaska 26-7 in the state title game.
And 45 years later, 60-year-old men from Cambridge still wonder how clunky was a computer in 1974 not to appreciate 28-6, and with 305 yards rushing?
• Rough football season for the Cambridge Bluejackets. They went 1-8 and allowed 384 points (43 per game), including 61 to Elk River.
• St. Olaf announced wrestling, a sport that dates to 1949 at the school, will be dropped after the season. Augsburg, Concordia and St. John’s will remain as MIAC schools with wrestling.
• Augsburg’s first women’s wrestling team — coached by Max Mejia, hired from Sunkist Kids juniors in Arizona — debuts Nov. 9 at Waldorf U. in Forest City, Iowa
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