The boys are back: CEC U19 returns to soccerHunter Leon, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin Superior next fall, is one of several collegians to return to the local fields to play for the Cloquet 19-and-under boys soccer team this summer.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CLOQUET — Turning 19 years old last Sunday, Hunter Leon isn’t the youngest player on his summer soccer team, but the Esko teenager isn’t nearly the oldest.
Leon, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin Superior next fall, is one of several collegians to return to the local fields, as the 5-foot-9, 170-pound defensive midfielder is playing for the Cloquet 19-and-under boys soccer team this summer.
In 2011, the quick-footed Leon (awarded the Duluth News Tribune’s Player of the Year) helped lead the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton varsity team to the program’s first-ever state tournament, along with teammates Landen Straub, John Scheuer, Derek Anderson and Sam Longseth, all of whom have returned to play after college. Mix them with recent high school graduates Brock Anderson and Eric Peterson, among others, and a majority of the historic team has returned.
“I love playing with these guys — we’ve been together since we were little kids and have always had that connection,” Leon said. “We’ve always had the faint idea of coming back. I’m just glad to have this opportunity again.”
That opportunity arose when Peterson sent a Facebook message out last fall. Leon remembers walking back to his UWS dorm following a soccer practice and reading it on his phone.
“I was ecstatic — just immediately pumped,” Leon recalled vividly. “I had a chance to give this up, but I love the game so much. And I wanted to get back on the pitch with these guys.”
Straub, 19, one of the area’s top scorers in 2011, went on to Harvard University. Although he doesn’t play for the Crimson, the sure-footed 6-foot-2, 185-pound forward explained he couldn’t pass up playing again with his favorite buddies.
“I knew no matter what, I was going to make it work,” said Straub, who is also a lifeguard at Pinehurst Park in Cloquet throughout the summer. “We’re all pretty rusty, but this is so fun. We’re all so close. It feels just like high school again.”
“I heard they’re kind of out of shape a bit,” added Cloquet senior forward Maija Doran, with a laugh. “But you can tell they are a good group of guys that have a lot of fun playing together.”
Peterson, fresh off of graduation from Cloquet High School, is basically running the team. Along with some assistance from Linda Vuicich getting Arrowhead Youth Soccer Association player passes, Peterson has organized all roster details, practices and tournaments, while also playing at defender.
“I decided I’d bring back our state tournament team from 2011,” said Peterson, who will play soccer at Bethel University next fall. “The memories from that team will never leave me.”
Peterson even paid the entry fee for last weekend’s tournament himself.
“These guys are still good soccer players, and [Eric] wanted to do this,” said Cloquet girls soccer Coach Dustin Randall, also aiding Peterson. “But I wasn’t going to give him my credit card.”