Esko, Cloquet prepare for season, with and without lightsA preview of both Cloquet and Esko football teams. Cloquet opens its season at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31 with an away game at St. Louis Park High School. Esko hosts Deer River at 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30, to open the season. Esko's home games are being played earlier this season, because the field has no lights, no bleachers and possibly no scoreboard after this summer's flooding.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
After getting knocked down, tackled or sacked, Marc Peterson looks like your average high school quarterback climbing back to his feet. But the Esko junior is also climbing his family tree every time he gets up.
“My dad and my grandpa both played,” Marc said of his father, Todd, and grandfather, Bob, both former quarterbacks for the Eskomos. “It’s kind of like living up to the family name.”
Not only were Peterson’s family members quarterbacks, but his coach, Bill Hudspith, slung for Esko in the 1970s as well. Entering his first year of full-time duty, Peterson said it will be difficult to replace former tenured quarterback Max Reinertsen, but he enjoys the challenge the position brings.
“The ball is always in your hands, and I like that,” said Peterson, a 6-foot-3, 165-pound right-hander. “There’s leadership included, too.”
“Max will be tough to fill, but Marc comes from a good gene pool. I think his uncle played, too,” Hudspith said. “He’s not so much an option guy, but a pocket-passer who is progressing. He’s a good athlete.”
Hudspith will look to Peterson to guide Esko when they open their season against Deer River Thursday at 4 p.m. at Les Knuti Field in Esko. There will be no lights, no bleachers and, possibly, no scoreboard, due to the flood damage.
A sophomore in 1972 when the field was first built, Hudspith recalled the early days of the complex and then explained he’s never seen something like this occur, now in his 22nd year with the Eskomos.
“It looks a little bare, but we can use it as an excuse, or use it as a positive,” Hudspith said. “We are preparing practices like pre-games, because at 4, it’s game time. We’re out there every day. Most teams can’t do that with night games. Maybe it gives us a little advantage.”
According to their Minnesota State High School League schedule, Esko has three home games at Les Knuti Field at 4 p.m., with their season finale Oct. 17 against Crosby-Ironton at Cloquet’s Bromberg Field at 6 p.m. Regardless of time and place, Peterson is a realist.
“It might give us a little advantage,” he said about playing in the sun’s rays instead of under night lights. “But we are all still playing football.”
Hudspith said the team is looking good. Seeking to improve on a 4-5 mark, Esko has some options, Hudspith said.
“We have lots of receivers, running backs and our line is nice,” said Hudspith. “We have a couple of holes to fill, but we’re right where we should be. A bunch of these seniors and young kids are stepping up.”
“Our success will come from the line,” Peterson added of their Class AAA team. “We have some fast backs out there, too. It should be fun.”
With or without lights, bleachers or a scoreboard.
All three field accessories work in Cloquet. Yet, unlike the Eskomos, the Lumberjacks have been upped from Class AAA to AAAA this fall. Senior Kaleb Kadelbach said it’s nothing they are afraid of.
“There are a lot of kids flying around here hitting people and getting after it,” said the 5-foot-10, 170-pound wide receiver and nose guard. “We’re definitely going to be at a harder level, but we look at it as having as good a shot as anyone else. We’re ready for it, for sure.”
Much like last year. Storming through the playoffs as an underdog, the Lumberjacks lost to Greenway-Nashwauk-Keewatin 14-7 for the title, falling one step away from state. It was Kadelbach who dropped a pass in the end zone to tie things up. Since then, he has developed a new optimistic mindset.
“Yeah, I still think about it every once in a while,” Kadelbach said about the play, “but part of being an athlete is forgetting about things and trying to move forward to the next season. Now, we’re working hard.”
Cloquet Coach Tom Lenarz agreed. In his 10th season with the Lumberjacks, he noted the past three weeks on the field have been solid.
“We’ve have a great time with camp and two-a-days; I’m really excited where they’re at,” said Lenarz of his team which will open Friday night at St. Louis Park. “They’re doing what they need to do to prepare.”
Cloquet graduated a number of seniors from last year. Lenarz said although his team has no more than a handful of starters back, his boys are familiar with the game.
“In our system, we play a lot of seniors,” Lenarz said of the 17 he has this year. “We don’t have a lot of guys who started last year, but we have a lot of experience and guys who played a lot last season.”
“We have a good group of players out here,” Kadelbach added. “We just have to continue to work together and play as a team.”
Lenarz highlighted senior captains: quarterback Sean Kedrowski, lineman Thomas Udenberg and running back Brad Butcher. Danny Ritchie, a senior linebacker, was also named a captain by the coaches.
Behind their senior leadership, Lenarz explained that his boys aren’t looking back to last season’s historic run, but more toward the present.
“We don’t talk about last year at all, we just look forward,” he said. “We expect to compete for the conference and section titles every year. And in the end, I think we will be in the mix for both of those things.”
Cloquet hosts Barnum in their home opener Sept. 7 at Bromberg.
“We’re a little bigger this year,” Lenarz said. “I’m excited to see our guys perform on Friday. These seniors have been waiting a long time.”
“Practice right now is just overwhelming,” Kadelbach added. “We just want to play football and get under those lights on Friday night.”