With Halloween looming, Saturday’s prep football semifinals are scary similar to last year’s matchups during this time of autumn. In Section 7AAAA, Cloquet clashes with North Branch, two teams that tangoed in last season’s opening round, while in 7AAA, Esko (2-7) will be put the test at state-ranked Proctor (7-1) — a rematch of last year’s final.
Seeking an upset, sixth-seed North Branch applied pressure to the third-seeded Lumberjacks in an effective fashion, using a defensive trap to trigger offensive opportunities. Perhaps the propeller to their attack was their often out-of-net goalkeeper, who swept up constant would-be chances by the hosts.
"It's sad my career is over, but we're all like a family and have a sense of belonging here," said Boder, who will hang onto cleats, gloves and patented pink jersey for what he called "old-man" soccer league on Sunday evenings in town. "This is my number one sport, but at the end of the day, it's just a game. Life goes on. That's just how the cookie crumbles."
FOOTBALL: Section Playoffs Tuesday, Oct. 25, at various area sites Football is at its finest state in late October, as prep playoff brackets leap to the top of everyone's to-do...
"It's the ultimate goal. Everyone says their goal is to get to state," said Peterson, who last brought the Eskomos to state in 2011. "So it'd be a fantastic way for our 10 seniors to finish out their careers."
Who knows what will happen in the coming month as several of their prep careers come to an end, but one thing is for certain: win or lose, qualify or not, these these fabulous four kids can be marked among the best. Not because they are state champs, college stars or Olympians, but because they are quality kids. They love competition, yet thrive on being even better people.
"Just playing Carlton gets us all fired up," Kelley said. "It's just something." "It's always a great environment when we come together with Carlton — the kids are always up to the challenge," added Zywicki. "I didn't have to say anything."
The always-buzzing Swain Invitational will mark its 66th annual running this weekend when it attracts as many as 2,500 runners, 80 teams and plenty of people to the hilly and scenic Enger Park course. Saturday morning events range from middle school to varsity, both for boys and girls.
"Our goal is to be hitting on all cylinders once playoffs start — and that's still our goal," said Arntson. "We're improving. The kids started from scratch, basically ground zero, and the kids have been doing a good job. I have no complaints." Esko travels to Crosby-Ironton Friday, just another challenging opponent. "That's all we get it seems like," said Arntson with a laugh.
FOOTBALL: Carlton vs. Wrenshall 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, at Jim Erickson Field, Carlton Trying to consolidate their communities' schools for years, this annual gridiron gathering has become a must-see. Expect a capacity crowd in Carlton Friday as all kinds of people from both of these tiny towns will be in attendance. This is small-school football at its finest.