Win over Proctor elevates ’Jacks to first-round advantage in playoffsAustin Gotchnik’s touchdown run with 46 seconds to play lifted the Cloquet football team to a 17-10 win at Proctor Friday night and put the team in position to claim a first-round bye in the first round of the Section 7AAAA playoffs. The ’Jacks have earned
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
Austin Gotchnik’s touchdown run with 46 seconds to play lifted the Cloquet football team to a 17-10 win at Proctor Friday night and put the team in position to claim a first-round bye in the first round of the Section 7AAAA playoffs.
The ’Jacks have earned a first-round home game in the playoffs at the very least, but victory at Pine City on Wednesday night as this edition of the Pine Journal goes to press, plus a Princeton loss to Cambridge-Isanti , could well earn the ’Jacks the section’s second seed in the six-team tournament.
A second seed would earn Cloquet a week off before taking the field in the postseason.
“Proctor is always a big game for the coaches and the kids,” Cloquet Coach Tom Lenarz said. “It’s a lot like Hermantown for us. When we started here as coaches, Proctor dominated us for a long time as we were rebuilding, and they were a premier program. It’s good now that we’ve earned their respect to the point where they get up for the game just as much as we do.”
Gotchnik scored on a 2-yard run early in the second quarter to stake his team to a 10-0 lead before Rails star back Joe Carter cut the lead to 10-7 on a 1-yard plunge. Cody Lewis kicked a 29-yard field goal to tie the game at 10-10 in the third quarter before Gotchnik’s plunge won the game.
Cloquet did a great job against Carter, holding him to just 20 yards rushing on 11 carries, but quarterback Brodie Nordquist rushed 18 times for 94 yards for the Rails.
“Carter is a tremendous athlete and we were prepared for him, but their quarterback had a night running the ball,” Lenarz said. “That said, the defense played well the entire game holding them to 10 points.”
Maxx Brenner threw for 151 yards and completed 14 of 18 passes to spark the Cloquet offense. Four of those passes went to Gotchnik, and Brenner hit six different receivers in the game. Gotchnik rushed for 55 yards on 10 carries and Henry Backus ran 12 times for 54 yards.
“It was the kind of win that helps define a program,” Lenarz said. “We don’t want to make the Proctor game the whole season with playoffs coming up, but we felt like we had a good team and you have to be tested to prove it. The biggest thing I saw was a real attitude that our players had in the fourth quarter to get a stop defensively and get the ball with five minutes left to march down the field.”
On that winning drive, Cloquet converted a first-and-25 situation.
“To get that first down and get the ball in the end zone was a big step forward,” Lenarz said. “Credit our seniors. They didn’t panic or get flustered.”
Now, the ’Jacks play another big game at Pine City (3-4), which has won two straight.
“We feel like we have to win and get help to get that second seed,” Lenarz said. “Princeton and Cambridge isn’t a gimme for either team, so we will do our part and see what happens.”