MINNEAPOLIS — Odds are, if you were to tell Tom Lenarz that his Cloquet football team would have created five turnovers in Friday’s Prep Bowl XXXVI against Holy Angels Academy, the coach would have liked his team’s chances.
Turned out, those chances were there; the results were not.
Not only did the Lumberjacks fail to take advantage of the Stars’ five giveaways, but Cloquet also counted a quintet of turnovers themselves in falling 14-0 in the Class AAAA championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Cloquet, playing in their school’s first title tilt since a 14-13 overtime loss to White Bear Lake in 1976, was seeking to be the first Northeastern Minnesota school to win it all amongst the larger classification since Eveleth did so in 1973.
A first-half interception in the end zone and four fumbles following halftime didn’t help the Lumberjacks’ title hopes.
Still, recovering two fumbles and picking off Joseph Heimbold three times themselves, Cloquet had their shots.
“I think both teams had opportunities and made some mistakes,” said Lenarz, who won a Prep Bowl himself in 1988 while playing for Blaine, Minn. and was seeking his first as a coach. “They just made a couple of more plays than we did.”
One of those plays was when Heimbold hit senior classmate Ryan Mazurek down the right sideline on a third-and-20 play that turned into a 46-yard touchdown. Mazurek did his best Randy Moss impression at the home of the Minnesota Vikings when he leapt over Cloquet’s Riley Leslie to snag the only score of the first half in the opening quarter.
“I knew he could make a play,” said Heimbold of Mazurek, wearing all smiles afterward in his blue title medal.
Up 7-0 at the half, Holy Angels (12-1) controlled much of a wild third quarter — which included three of the game’s 10 turnovers — and widened their lead when Thomas Shelstad scored from a yard out, capitalizing on a Cloquet fumble.
The fourth quarter was much the same: three combined giveaways like second and third, and control by the Stars. After 12 more scoreless minutes for the Richfield, Minn.-based Catholic school, Holy Angels claimed their first title.
“It’s indescribable,” admitted Stars coach Jim Gunderson.
Not to be outdone, Cloquet finished 12-1 and did something this small northern town hadn’t seen in 41 years. Supported by thousands of purple-clad fans on Friday, saying the Lumberjacks ignited their community may not be enough.
“I’m really proud. I couldn’t be happier for this group,” said Lenarz, next to four of his 21 seniors. “These guys have been warriors the entire year and they played like it tonight.”
AHA — Ryan Mazurek 46 pass from Joseph Heimbold (Aaron Sanchez kick)
AHA — Thomas Shelstad 1 run (Sanchez kick)