Prep boys soccer: CEC wants to ‘make a splash’ at state tournament
The third-seeded Lumberjacks have won 14 straight games headed into their Class AA quarterfinal showdown St. Cloud Tech at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Irondale High School in New Brighton.
CLOQUET — When Cloquet-Esko-Carlton senior Noah Knutson jumped up and headed the ball out of the penalty area against Duluth Denfeld Oct. 18, he effectively clinched a second consecutive state appearance for the Lumberjacks.
Down 1-0 with time winding down, Hunter coach Scott Anderson moved a couple more players forward to try to generate a couple of chances to tie the score and force overtime.
Instead, Knutson cleared the ball and ended the Denfeld threat.
Before last season, CEC hadn’t qualified for the state tournament since 2011. The unseeded Lumberjacks battled second-seeded Mahtomedi for nearly 100 minutes, only to have the Zephyrs claim a 2-1 victory in double overtime.
This season CEC comes in on a 14-game winning streak and secured the three seed in the Class AA state tournament with the win over Denfeld.
The Lumberjacks remember well the pain of losing at the state tournament last year, but they don’t plan to go out after just one game this season.
“I think last year, we were more happy to be there,” CEC coach John Sundquist said. “This year, we know that we’re one of the top teams and we want to go down there and make a splash.”
The Lumberjacks (15-2) haven’t lost since a 1-0 defeat to Class AAA Mounds View Aug. 29. Their only other loss was to Columbia Heights Aug. 27, also by a 1-0 score. The Lumberjacks won’t have to worry about the third-ranked Hylanders in the state tournament, however, after a 2-1 loss to undefeated and top-seeded Hill-Murray in the Section 4AA championship.
Waiting for the Lumberjacks is St. Cloud Tech (11-6-2). The Tigers advanced with a double overtime win over St. Cloud Apollo Thursday. The Tigers also won their section semifinal game against Alexandria 2-1 in penalty kicks Tuesday.
“They’ve had some battles on their hands and that team can fight,” Sundquist said. “They've got a really good forward up there that they like to feed and they are pretty solid in the middle — their midfielders really like to attack. I’ve watched three games since we learned who we play and we feel like we’ve got a little bit of a handle on what they’d like to do. Then we’ll have to make sure we play well.”
CEC will play St. Cloud Tech at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Irondale High School in New Brighton.