There's a tug of war going on in communities all over the nation, and, like politics, it never seems to end. One season ends. The next begins. But in smaller communities, many of the players stay the same. Except when they don't. And there's the rub. Allow me to explain. Carlton County schools, and many in northeastern Minnesota for that matter, are dependent on two- and three-sport athletes to put teams on their fields of play. Enrollment isn't at the point where schools can have specialists. I'll give you an example.
The Hilltoppers, who were playing at Cloquet in the quarterfinals for the third consecutive year, raced off to a 3-0 first period lead and led 6-2 after two, with Aaron Moore and Landon Langenbrunner scoring the goals. The third period, though, belonged to the home team, which outshot Marshall 18-2 in the session and got goals from Branden Matteen and Langenbrunner, but could draw no closer.
The Lumberjacks won their first dual meet in the Section 7AA tournament 54-30 over Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, but were eliminated 59-16 by Grand Rapids in the second round. With the individual section meet scheduled for Friday, Feb. 23, and Saturday, Feb. 24, in Milaca, there's one more chance for Denman's wrestlers to shine
After last weekend's split with the Janesville Jets, the Wilderness stand in third place in the Central Division — and play all 16 of their remaining games against teams currently behind them in the standings. "We do control our own destiny," coach Tim Madsen said. "If the players decide they want to reach the goal (of making the playoffs), that's within them to do."
The Lumberjacks saw their season end with a heartbreaking 1-0 quadruple-overtime loss to Hibbing-Chisholm Thursday night in Cloquet, while the Rebels fell 3-1 in their quarterfinal game at International Falls.
"We came out as a team and played really well," Weber said, "We didn't try to do anything special. Sometimes, you just really work well together as a team. We played good defense and had multiple scorers, which hasn't always been the case with us." The game against Carlton was Cromwell's only game of the week, giving Gronner and his team a chance to rest, recuperate and get ready for the stretch run.
"We have done well on defense and Bridget has been a difference-maker in the post," Antonutti said. "We have good players on the base of our zone and it has shown."
Esko senior Tyler Northey won the overall boys' race, taking third place in the freestyle race and finishing second to teammate A.J. Maijala in the classic. Freshman Benjamin Bauer was third in the classic race as CEC completed a 1-2-3 sweep. Overall, Northey claimed the conference championship by four seconds over Maijala with Bauer taking fourth place and Josh Sanders seventh. That gave CEC four of the 10 all-conference spots in the boys' race. Blaine Bong, Spencer Hoeffling and Nicholas Litke barely missed all-conference status, taking 11th, 12th and 13th places, respectively.
CEC has two games remaining in its regular season — Thursday, Feb. 1, against Duluth Marshall and Saturday, Feb. 3, against Thief River Falls. The team is battling for third seed in its QRF-ranked section. "We were behind International Falls for third place entering the North Shore game," Olin said. "The last two games are big. Marshall is a section opponent and Thief River Falls is a common opponent with International Falls. I would expect us to be a third or fourth seed, but we need these games for momentum heading into playoffs. "All we were looking for against the bigger teams was work ethic and improvement," Olin said. "We got it. Our goal is to be competitive in playoffs. We're peaking now and it's the right time."
Esko led Minnesota Class AA teams in defense last year at 39 points per game playing Devney's preferred man-to-man style. But the Eskomos have had trouble defensively this year, which led to Devney's decision to switch to — gulp — a zone defense three games ago. It's worked. The Eskomos (13-4) held Denfeld, McGregor and Cloquet to 33, 38 and 29 points, respectively, in a modest three-game winning streak. "The way we were guarding people, it was time for a change," Devney said. "The kids have responded well." In most man-to-man situations, opposing teams have tried to pull Trapp away from the basket, especially in the so-called "positionless basketball" craze. Sometimes, that has worked.