'Jacks snuffed by Duluth East in section finals

If ever there was a pedigree of a football player, Connor Kolodge of Duluth East has it. Kolodge is the son of former Cloquet Lumberjack standout Greg Kolodge and the nephew of Greg's brother Monte, a former Jacks lineman. On Friday night, Connor...

If ever there was a pedigree of a football player, Connor Kolodge of Duluth East has it. Kolodge is the son of former Cloquet Lumberjack standout Greg Kolodge and the nephew of Greg's brother Monte, a former Jacks lineman. On Friday night, Connor Kolodge made Lumberjack fans wish his family had stayed in Cloquet as he led his Duluth East Greyhounds to a 35-0 Section 7AAAA win over the Jacks at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth.

"If you watched East play this year, they did this to everyone," said Cloquet coach Tom Lenarz. "When you break the game down, they scored 28 points in 5 minutes and the rest of the game was 7-0."

The Jacks opened the first quarter with an eight-play drive that ended with them punting the ball down to the East 1-yard line. The drive took up nearly 6 minutes of the first quarter. East responded with an 11-play 99-yard touchdown drive that culminated when Skylar Murray, the Greyhound quarterback, plunged into the end zone from a yard out. The East conversion was stymied by Cloquet, giving the Greyhounds a 6-0 lead with 3:13 left in the first quarter.

On Cloquet's next drive, they went three plays and punted the ball to East as the Greyhounds took over from their own 49-yard line.

After a big gain by Murray to the Cloquet 25-yard line, it was Kolodge who broke loose down the right side for a touchdown run. Murray tacked on the conversion run making it 14-0 East.


The Greyhounds then attempted an on-side kick, but they muffed the play, allowing Cloquet to start their next drive on the East 46-yard line. But, on the first play from scrimmage, Jacks quarterback Tyler Tollerud had his pass picked off by Kolodge, who raced to the end zone untouched for a 52-yard interception. Henry Roningen added the extra point kick, making it 21-0 as East had scored 21 points in just 2 minutes and 18 seconds.

"East is just so big and talented that whenever you make a mistake they score," commented Lenarz. "In the end they were just the better team. We had a good plan, we had a great week of practice, and the kids played as hard as they could."

Cloquet's Paul Ryan returned the East kickoff to the 33-yard line and the Jacks managed two plays from scrimmage before the first quarter ended. The Jacks then fumbled two plays into the second quarter and on the first play from scrimmage for the Greyhounds, Murray found Matt Cooper racing down the middle of the field for a 58-yard touchdown pass and catch. After the Roningen extra point kick, it was 28-0 with 10:42 left in the half. East had scored 28 points in a total of 3 minutes and 36 seconds.

"The long passes they hit were something they hadn't had to do before, but they were able to pull it off," explained Lenarz. "You have to give them credit because in addition to being huge and fast, they didn't make any mistakes either. That is the sign of a great team."

The rest of the second quarter and entire third quarter went scoreless and then East scored one more time in the fourth quarter.

"We tried to do some things differently to mix them up and we had some success with that," said Lenarz. "Unfortunately, when you take chances to shut down the run you open yourself up to other things. I attribute our keeping the game close as it was to our kids' willingness to play physical football the whole game. We never stopped hitting them on either side of the ball. Without that mentality we would have been in real trouble."

East's final score came midway through the final quarter when Nick Toscano rumbled in from the 2-yard line and Roningen booted the extra point for a 35-0 lead.

"These guys have done everything we have asked of them," Lenarz stated about the Jacks. "All of them spent time in the weight room, summer practices, etc., and it has paid off in a big way. I can't tell you how proud I am of them. The younger guys owe it to the seniors to keep this going and I think they have taken the message to heart. This team has raised the bar for future teams and I am excited to see how those kids respond next year."


The Lumberjacks finished the season 7-4.

"There isn't really a lot more to say other than East is the biggest high school team I have seen," Lenarz suggested. "I played on a state championship team and we didn't have two guys as big as East's smallest lineman. Everyone you talk to who has watched football in the area will tell you that this is the best team they have seen. I've talked to many coaches who compare East's offensive and defensive line to a small college line and they certainly have the explosive skill kids as well."

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