CEC tips Marshall, play in state tournament todayCloquet- Esko-Carlton boys soccer heads to their first-ever boys soccer state tournament in school history after a 1-0 overtime win over the Hilltoppers in last Thursday’s Section 7A championship game at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth. CEC (14-3-2) plays second-ranked Class A power Benilde-St. Margaret’s (16-2-1) Thursday, Oct. 27, at 5:30 p.m. in the state quarterfinals at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
DULUTH – Speeding down the right side of the field in a tense overtime period, Landen Straub sent a pass across the pitch that he wasn’t sure was going anywhere.
Until he saw it in the back of the net.
Moments after leaving his foot, the 6-foot-2 Cloquet senior’s crossing attempt redirected off a Duluth Marshall defender and past the goalkeeper, helping propel Cloquet- Esko-Carlton to their first-ever boys soccer state tournament in school history with a 1-0 overtime win over the Hilltoppers in last Thursday’s Section 7A championship game at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth.
The win with the abrupt netter now pits first-time entrant CEC (14-3-2) against second-ranked Class A power Benilde-St. Margaret’s (16-2-1) Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the state quarterfinals at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud.
“I don’t even know what happened, but I don’t care,” said an ecstatic Straub after his game-winner just 43 seconds into the extra frame last week. “It went in.”
Straub admitted that he was trying to get the ball back to fellow attacking midfielder Jim Peterson when he kicked the ball from the back right corner to the middle of the box where Marshall’s defenders were looming in front of the net.
“I was surprised. I thought he was too far in to make such a quality cross,” said CEC Coach Archie Clark. “It could have been prettier, but we’ll take it.”
Following the fluky goal, the Lumberjacks team rushed to dog-pile Straub as some of the Hilltoppers fell to the turf in dismay. The teary-eyed Marshall coach Mike Sengbush said watching the ending was a difficult one.
“It’s tough,” he said. “It’ll take them a couple days to get over it, but they are kids, they will get over it. It was a good game. They [CEC] just finished on top.”
The top-seeded Hilltoppers and second-ranked Lumberjacks split during the regular season, winning each clash on their home field and finishing one and two in the Lake Superior Conference. The pair of respected teams knew the playoff match was going to be a defensive grinder through and through.
“They’re amazing,” said Straub about the LSC champion Hilltoppers. “They have strong forwards, a good defense and they really put us to the test tonight, as they have all season. But we ended up pulling it off.”
Straub netted a team-leading 23 goals to lead the Lumberjacks this year. He told the Duluth News Tribune that was his goal, in order to honor former CEC goalkeeper Jordan Tucker, who wore No. 23 before he died in his sleep in 2008. After the win, the CEC team chanted his name while hoisting their trophy.
“We knew he was looking over us and helping us through every game,” Straub told the News Tribune. “He was here tonight and got us through.”
“Jordan was such a good friend to all these kids, and we still miss him to this day,” Clark said. “We’ll never forget him, and you just wish he could be here to enjoy it with us.”
Clark noted that other than their phantom goal, CEC’s defense was the difference-maker in their grinding victory over Marshall’s senior-laden crew. He especially noted the backfield play of defenders Eric Peterson, Derek Anderson and Brock Anderson, who altered shots all night long and didn’t allow a single goal in their three sectional games.
“Those three were magnificent,” Clark said. “I’d say those three are as much are part of this win as anybody out here. They played great.”
Athletic CEC midfielder Hunter Leon also shut down Marshall’s top-scoring threat in John Fox, while Lumberjacks senior netminder Jarad Weeks posted nine heart-throbbing saves in preserving his sixth and most memorable shutout yet.
“Jarad was as solid as a rock,” said Clark.
“We always knew we could do this,” said Weeks. “We have all waited for this for a long time. And here we are. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
But CEC knows they have their work cut out for them with the Red Knights, who sport 15 seniors, a handful on the All-State team, and Mr. Soccer, Johnny Mulvahill.
“There are some tough teams down there, but I promise, we’ll show up,” Clark said.
“We have no idea what to expect,” added Straub. “We know it’s going to be a challenge. But I know we can pull through like we have all
Although state tournament rookies and the underdogs, the Lumberjacks won’t change their opportunistic game plan.
“I think we can beat almost anyone,” Leon said. “It’s still one game at a time.”
For almost instant results of the boys game Thursday night, look for Tyler Korby’s game story online at www.pinejournal.com.