Preview: Eskomos are back in fine form, new field takes shapeEsko Coach Bill Hudspith welcomed about 60 players to the start of practice last week. That’s typical. Fourteen of those players are seniors, and that’s also typical. The schedule is tough, and that’s typical. But the team’s home field won’t be typical.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
In Esko football, sometimes the more things change the more they stay the same.
Veteran coach Bill Hudspith welcomed about 60 players to the start of practice last week. That’s typical. Fourteen of those players are seniors, and that’s also typical. The schedule is tough, and that’s typical.
But the team’s home field won’t be typical.
Construction on the new artificial-turf facility to replace the venerable Les Knuti Field won’t be complete until the team’s second home game on Oct. 5 but then the Eskomos will have one of the region’s premier home venues to call their own.
The field will be much, much different, and that’s a great thing.
“We haven’t played on a lot of those fields,” Hudspith said. “But it’ll be great to practice and play on it. We’ll have sure footing and we won’t have to worry about the weather. Esko has always had nice facilities and this will be very enjoyable.”
What may not be as enjoyable are the team’s first two games — at Cloquet and a “home” game against Moose Lake-Willow River in Proctor before the new field is done.
“We hit a buzz saw pretty quick,” Hudspith said. “We have good benchmarks to work on and find out where we are at.”
At quarterback, senior Marc Peterson returns to run the offense.
“Our quarterback is good and we have some nice receivers,” Hudspith said. “(Senior) Earl Brinkley is back at fullback so we have running backs. But the strongest part of our team is in the offensive and defensive lines.”
The Eskomos will have very good size up front.
“We’ve got a couple of 245-pounders, one at 255 and one at 260,” Hudspith said. “If you had to pick a place to be strong, it would be there. Our kids have size and they can get moving. They worked out hard in the off season.
“If you have the ponies up front to pull, that’s the first step,” Hudspith added.
There are enough “ponies” for Hudspith to consider a five-man defensive front as well, though the Eskomos are as likely to show their base 4-3 defense.
“We might see some five-man this year,” he said, “depending on who is playing well and who isn’t. That line will lead us.”
The team’s schedule is also a test.
“Every year our league gets better and better and better,” Hudspith said. “There don’t seem to be any easy weeks any more, which is good for football in the area. We’re starting to see schools from the Sea-Range and crossing over our schedules.”
In addition to Cloquet, Proctor is also on the Eskomos’ schedule this year along with the usual conference tilts.
“It’s a lot tougher than it was a couple years ago,” Hudspith said.
The Eskomos are eagerly awaiting the matchup with Cloquet.
“It’s a good test,” Hudspith said. “I hope we can play with them. Tom (Lenarz) does a nice job, has big numbers out, and I don’t know if we can stop them but what I know is they are solid, traditional, and they don’t like to get into a track meet with you. We have our work cut out for us.”
And speaking of that, until the new field is done practices have been interesting.
“We practice everyone in the (grades) 7-12 program on the baseball outfield behind the school,” Hudspith said. “Until the field is ready, we have a lot of football squeezed into that little area. But the community stepped forward to help us and we have money in the bank for this field and for 8-10 years down the road when they need to resurface it. It’ll look unbelievable.”