Football Preview...News about Cloquet and other area teamsStanding along the sideline a season ago, safety Maxx Brenner could only watch his Cloquet football teammates lose on the final play with no time left. Now, the left-handed senior looks to lead the Lumberjacks into their 2013 season, as the safety-turned-starting-quarterback and teammates began practice last week.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Standing along the sideline a season ago, safety Maxx Brenner could only watch his Cloquet football teammates lose on the final play with no time left.
Now, the left-handed senior looks to lead the Lumberjacks into their 2013 season, as the safety-turned-starting-quarterback and teammates began practice last week.
Brenner, a crafty 5-foot-11, 165-pound southpaw in his first-year behind a varsity center, said their season-ending 35-29 overtime loss to Princeton in last year’s Class AAAA playoff opener remains a difficult memory.
“Any time you lose in overtime to end your season, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” Brenner said, “but that game has only given us more motivation for this year. It’s made us put in the extra work over the summer.”
Summer vacation ended for Brenner and his teammates last Monday, when the Lumberjacks began two-a-day practices at the high school. Coach Tom Lenarz said a program-record 98 players are on the roster, including 29 seniors, which he explained is a committed core that will center the team.
“My philosophy has always been to lead with seniors — we play them a lot,” said Lenarz, now in his 11th season at the helm. “Many in this group are multi-sport athletes, but have worked hard and driven themselves all summer long to hit the ground running.”
Running the ball again this fall is senior Austin Gotchnik. The 6-foot, 185-pound red-haired running back practiced Tuesday where the heat index reached nearly 100 degrees during mid-afternoon.
“It’s hot, but everybody is warm,” Gotchnik said.
Gotchnik and Brenner, the team’s captains, are among several senior returnees, including valuable Tanner Louhela and fellow linemates on each ball side.
“We have a lot of depth and a lot of guys who are willing to put in the work,” Brenner said. “Yeah, it’s been hot out, but it’s been hot for everyone. There have been no complaints — just guys who want to be there.”
“Our season is weird like that, where we start with 90 degrees and being hot, and finish with 20 degrees and rainy,” Lenarz added. “But these seniors are realizing football goes quick whether it’s hot, rainy — whatever.”
Barnum brings back 33 players, including several from last year’s Class A state tournament team. Second-year Bombers Coach Brian Robertson will look to veterans Zac Carlson, Zach Peterson, Brandon Newman and the line to lead.
Carlton comes into the Great Northern Conference and boast a full varsity schedule for the first time in several seasons. Second-year Bulldogs Coach Erik Hanson said 28 players will play on the 9-man team, including returning leaders Mike Moralez, Dominic Bennett, Cade Pearson and Josh Dahlman.
Cromwell-Wright will be young, as 16th-year Coach Jeff Gronner said he has 25 players and only three seniors. Owners of four state 9-man titles, the Cardinals see Hunter Rauvola, Austin Pfistner and Tyler Hakamaki return with a strong line.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe opens practice Monday. The Ogichidaa will play a junior varsity-level schedule underneath Coach Christopher King. All games will be played in Cloquet.
South Ridge returns quarterback Kody Karppinen and receivers Drew Janke and Colton Peterson, as the Panthers seek to repeat their state trip from last season. A total of 35 players are out for first-year Coach Tom Spaniol, 23, who replaces Tony DeLeon.
Wrenshall will rely on speed, as the small 9-man school seeks to up their one win a year ago. Coach Jeremy Zywicki, in his sixth season, said he has 19 players, including seniors Dustin Shelton, Austin Ferguson, Jared Kittel and Marcus Virginia.