Skilled Lumberjacks team undefeated after seven games
Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys soccer coach Archie Clark has high standards when it comes to his team. So it shouldn't be surprising that with his team leading 2-1 at Hibbing-Chisholm at the end of the first half, he could say they weren't playing well.
"We didn't play as well as we could have," Clark said. "There are some nights when you come out and you aren't sharp and that was [Tuesday]. We live and breathe on our wide midfielders making diagonal runs to goal and we mistimed our runs at least 10 times."
But in the second half, the 'Jacks figured things out, scoring three goals to win 5-1 and improve to 7-0-0 on the season. CEC has scored 36 goals in its seven wins and appears to be living up to predictions it would be one of the area's top teams.
"Zach Conklin came up from central defense and made a nice touch to get us a goal from a corner kick to make it 3-1," Clark said. "That broke Hibbing down. If they had made it 2-2, it might have been a much different game."
But it wasn't. Cloquet used ball pressure all over the field to harass Hibbing-Chilholm's defenders into mistakes and, over time, wore them down and finally out.
Andy Acers was the star of the show in the team's biggest victory to date, a 3-1 triumph over arch-rival Hermantown in Cloquet on Friday. Despite trailing 1-0 at halftime, Cloquet won going away as Acers scored a hat trick in the second half including goals two minutes apart.
Despite trailing at the break, Cloquet dominated the match. Over the full 80 minutes, CEC had 15 attempts at goal to three for the Hawks.
"We kept them pinned in their end for vast amounts of time during the game," Clark said. "We have the guys with the experience, and the depth, to keep the ball in their half. That's what happened."
"The thing is, we might see Hermantown twice more (in the reverse fixture at Hermantown later this season and possibly in the section playoffs)," he said.
Obviously, it's hard to argue with 7-0, and Clark isn't about to start now.
"I think we are where we should be," he said. "I'm really happy with this group. I'd even be happy if we weren't winning, that's how good these kids are."
Clark says the team even has a liking to practice, which might be a bit unusual among high school players.
"They love to get out and play and since they like to practice so much, we can try things with them that are more advanced," he said. "We'll have more work to do."
Next week, CEC faces defending section champion Denfeld at Duluth's Public Schools Stadium, which features a surface that plays to Clark's pacy players.
"We like the turf because we're fast," he said. "We have a fast team and we're good in transition so we'll see how it goes. They (Denfeld) are the defending champs and they're a good team."
But Clark says his team is willing to put in the extra work because it sees even better days ahead. Many of his seniors have been playing together since elementary school.
"They are always prepared to play," he said. "They show a joy in seeing this whole thing develop. That doesn't come out of thin air, they feel they're on the verge of something pretty good. Each time we win, it helps build that feeling."