Cloquet cherishes football, admires alumsIn the middle of the bleachers, just under the press box, there he sat, wearing a buttoned-up purple jacket, black football cap and his aging eyes focused on the field – a field with his name, Rol Bromberg, on the entrance.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
In the middle of the bleachers, just under the press box, there he sat, wearing a buttoned-up purple jacket, black football cap and his aging eyes focused on the field – a field with his name, Rol Bromberg, on the entrance.
Bromberg watched as his beloved Cloquet football team took a 21-15 loss against Sea-Range Conference rival Hermantown last Friday night, but the 80-year-old was far from a loss of words when speaking fondly of his favorite school and community.
You see, Bromberg was coach of the Lumberjacks for 28 seasons — from 1958-1986 — and still stands as one of the program’s worthy fans, going to as many games as his wife allows.
“I come to just about all of them,” he said during halftime.
Moments before, it was Bromberg, along with other former coaches and players, who took to his field in honor of the first Cloquet alumni gathering. Bromberg was announced last and, following the applause, he returned to watch the second half.
“I enjoy seeing so many kids playing,” said the Hall of Famer, who amassed more than 140 wins through his time, including Cloquet’s only state championship appearance in a 1976 loss to White Bear Lake by one point in the Class AA final. “I still remember my first game. We beat Eveleth-Gilbert 7-0.”
Although Cloquet (3-1) was unable to beat the Hawks last week, the alumni in attendance were the story. Organized by 1989 graduate Daryl Niemi Jr., he said he enjoyed walking onto the field with his father, Daryl Sr., and son, Nate.
“A lot of people think this is a hockey community, but they don’t realize football was king,” said Niemi, whose other son, Nick, plays varsity and youngest, Noah, is the varsity ball boy. “My parents still tell me how the old Athletic Park was packed in the ’60s with three- or four-people deep all the way around.
“It’s kind of a family thing for us,” Niemi continued, “but I think this [alumni event] was good for the program — good for Cloquet.”
Current Cloquet Coach Tom Lenarz, now in his 11th season, is just the sixth play-caller since football began back in 1917.
“That just amazes me,” said Lenarz, who was preceded only by coaches Dave Battaglia, Ken Schloer, Bromberg, Chick Oist and Herb Drew. “I love this. It’s just great to be able to coach these kids. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by the guys I am.”
“We love playing Cloquet — it’s a great school,” added Hawks Coach Daryl Illikainen, just before helping pick up the sideline cones after the game. “We have a lot of respect for them.”
“I just love listening to his old stories,” said Ryan Lindstrom, a 2008 Cloquet graduate, former quarterback and now assistant coach. “Even just to shake his hand — it’s just tradition.”
“This was fun,” Bromberg added. “I saw a lot of people who I hadn’t seen in quite a long time — some almost as old as I am.”
Barnum (4-0) ran past Hinckley-Finlayson 62-28 in last Friday’s road win. The Bombers, ranked fourth in Class A, were led by Zach Peterson and Brandon Newman’s six-TD combo.
Carlton (0-4) couldn’t keep up with host Isle in a 41-0 Great Northern nine-man loss last Friday. Both Nick Lee and Dominic Bennett had 10-plus tackles defensively for the winless Bulldogs.
Cromwell-Wright (3-1) was upended by Great Northern nine-man rival Floodwood 49-7 last Friday in Cromwell, as Eli Warpula’s 81-yard kickoff return was the Cardinals’ only score.
Esko (2-2) edged Duluth Marshall 33-28 in the final minutes of last Friday’s Great Polar White contest. Marc Peterson’s 24-yard TD pass — on fourth-and-9 — to Rick Johnson was the winner. Esko premieres its new stadium Friday against Two Harbors at 5 p.m.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe opens their junior varsity-only season Monday, when the Ogichidaa — boasting 21 players — welcomes Silver Bay to Cloquet on Sept. 30 and Carlton on Oct. 3.
Moose Lake-Willow River (4-0) routed host Eveleth-Gilbert 55-15 in a Great Polar White affair last Friday. Jon Evenson darted for scores of 55, 1, 19 and 42 yards. The Rebels, ranked third in Class AA, have now won 58 regular-season games consecutively.
South Ridge (3-1) ran into unbeaten Ely and a 24-12 Big North nine-man loss last Friday at home, as the Panthers, ranked 10th in the state, couldn’t overcome Kody Karppinen’s three interceptions.
Wrenshall (1-3) wowed all in their 27-22 comeback win over Great Northern nine-man McGregor last Friday. The host Wrens, led by Dustin Shelton’s 254 yards on 22 carries, once trailed 22-6.