Cloquet, Esko ready to battle on the football field
LARGE SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW
Last football season, during Cloquet’s first state tournament run in 26 years, Nate Weets played cornerback, seeking to intercept any balls that came in his direction.
This fall, as the quarterback, the senior has a different role, but is seeking the same direction for the Lumberjacks.
Cloquet will look to continue its success against its opponents, including Esko, when the Lumberjacks and Eskomos engage Friday night, Aug. 29, at Esko Stadium at 7 p.m.
Like last year — an electrifying game Cloquet won 19-18 with 3.4 seconds remaining — the rivalry contest between neighboring towns marks the season’s much-anticipated start.
Weets, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound right-hander, is hoping the team can start like it did last year, when the 9-2 Sea-Range Conference school advanced to its first state football tournament since 1987. Despite a 61-33 loss to Delano in the Class AAAA quarterfinals, the Lumberjacks want back in.
“It was amazing,” said Weets of last year’s state run. “Being down there always makes a team want to get back. And I feel we have the guys on this team who want to do it.”
Though proud of last season's accomplishments, Cloquet Coach Tom Lenarz, in his 13th season, was quick to say this is a new year, with focus and improvement the keys to success.
The Lumberjacks could go a long way with the depth they have. According to Lenarz, 90 players are out for the team this fall, including the precision-passing Weets under center, as well as classmates Kyle Klatt, Zach Gerlach and Hunter Roberts providing plenty of speed options in the backfield.
Along with Weets and Klatt, senior Jeroam Defoe is also a captain.
“We’re not as big as last year, but we have some really skilled kids,” Lenarz said. “They’ve set some high goals.”
“It’s just one game, one play at a time,” added Weets.
Esko aims to win home opener
Esko is certainly no stranger to big games like the one expected Friday with the Lumberjacks. Last year, the 7-4 Eskomos advanced all the way to the Section 7AAA final, before falling to Proctor 37-21. The year before, they qualified for State after a seven-year hiatus.
Coach Bill Hudspith, in his 24th season, has 61 players, including loads of leadership in senior captains Aaron Olson, Matt Bolgrean, Gabe Rice and Fauston Wirtz. Juniors Jaxson Turner, Nick Emanuel and Jack Kuhlman are also athletic.
“We’re a little better than I thought,” Hudspith admitted. “Everybody is in shape and looking fast. I’m sure they’re getting ramped up to beat Cloquet, but Cloquet is tough, too.”
“The whole team wants this one,” said Olson, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound, high-jumping receiver. “It’s gonna be a fun one.”