Cloquet leaps past Esko in final secondsCloquet quarterback Maxx Brenner scored with just 3.4 seconds remaining on the clock to carry the Lumberjacks to an electrifying 19-18 football victory over Esko last Friday night at Bromberg Field in Cloquet.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Cloquet quarterback Maxx Brenner scored with just 3.4 seconds remaining on the clock to carry the Lumberjacks to an electrifying 19-18 football victory over Esko last Friday night at Bromberg Field in Cloquet
Brenner, a left-handed senior, mishandled the third-down snap, but — as the time continued to tick — took the next play around his favorite left side for a 6-yard score, sending the host sidelines and overflowing bleachers into jubilation.
The winning play was supposed to be a pass, Brenner admitted.
“I was looking to pass, but they had them covered nicely,” said Brenner. “I got around the edge and decided to make a play with my feet and put the ball in the end zone.”
Esko Coach Bill Hudspith, whose team took an 18-13 lead on Brandt Hintsala’s 2-yard plunge with four minutes to play, couldn’t fault Esko’s defense.
“He’s an athlete,” Hudspith said. “We picked everybody up, but he was able to scramble and got in.”
Cloquet had a chance to take control in the first half after running 37 offensive plays to Esko’s 16. But a pair of interceptions by Esko’s Ryan Schramm, including one the sophomore returned 55 yards for a TD, thwarted the Lumberjacks and helped Esko build a 12-6 halftime advantage.
“We’d have great drives, and then Maxx made a couple bad reads and the Esko kid made nice plays on the ball,” Cloquet Coach Tom Lenarz said.
Surprisingly, it was the first time the neighboring schools had met on the gridiron.
The two teams had never played each other before, not when Esko introduced a prep football program in 1946, and not when the two schools sported dynamite teams in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
Lenarz said not all things were a first Friday.
“These kids played together growing up,” he said, explaining many participated in youth football with and against one another from third through sixth grade in Cloquet.
Cloquet (1-0) also carded touchdowns from senior captain Austin Gotchnik, who scored from 14 and 15 yards out, totaling a game-best 160 yards on 24 attempts.
Gotchnik admitted he was uneasy during Brenner’s sprint.
“I was so scared,” Gotchnik admitted. “Honestly, I thought he was done for.”
Screeching from the sidelines just moments before Brenner’s dash, Lenarz remembered his captain signal-caller staying cool.
“He had a rough first half,” said Lenarz, noting Brenner’s pair of interceptions. “But his composure was amazing. While I’m screaming, he got everyone set up, our line blocked, he got outside and got in.
“I just feel great for him,” he added.
Along with his two picks, Schramm blocked a punt and recovered a fumble, while Esko (0-1) got a 66-yard touchdown pass from Marc Peterson to Rick Johnson, adding to Hintsala’s short run. Still, it wasn't enough to hold Cloquet.
Lenarz — who is also activities director for Cloquet — sees more matchups in the teams’ futures.
“It’s more a function of school enrollments and things like that changing so much, where now we’re a little closer enrollment-wise, so it makes more sense,” Lenarz said.