CEC soccer team loaded with talent

CLOQUET - Hunter Leon has been waiting for this fall soccer season since the eighth grade. Even then, the young Cloquet-Esko-Carlton player always knew this could be their year.

Archie Clark
Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys soccer coach Archie Clark directs a running drill Friday at Hilltop Park in Cloquet while Esko senior Hunter Leon looks on intently. CEC begins its season Thursday and Friday against Proctor and Rosemount at home. Tyler Korby/Pine Journal

CLOQUET - Hunter Leon has been waiting for this fall soccer season since the eighth grade. Even then, the young Cloquet-Esko-Carlton player always knew this could be their year.

He may be right.

Leon, now a senior at Esko High School, is one of the centerpieces for an experience-laden Lumberjacks team that features 11 seniors and returns eight of their 11 starters from a season ago.

That said, the bar has already been set higher than ever for CEC.

"I like to fly under the radar, but there's no doubt about it, we're going to have a decent team," said sixth-year 'Jacks coach Archie Clark during practice last Friday. "We're pretty well set at almost every position. And we've got guys who can do it all."


One of those guys is Leon. The short, speedy, all-around sparkplug for CEC was named an all-state member a year ago, when he and Cloquet senior forward Landen Straub led the 'Jacks in the scoring department.

Leon, Straub and Cloquet senior midfielder John Scheuer were all voted captains this fall. With those three anchoring CEC's attack, Clark is confident in his crew.

"This is one of those few teams that can come out after tryouts and I know everybody can play," he said. "They know what I'm talking about. Things aren't foreign to these guys."

Last season, CEC finished the year with a 6-8-1 record and dropped out in the opening round of the Section 7A playoffs. Leon figures that experience will pay off.

"Since eighth grade when we all tried out, we always talked about this year," he said. "We have a lot of experienced players and some underclassmen coming up, too. We have so much


CEC also brings back senior goalkeeper Jarad Weeks, while Clark mentioned the return of other key players: seniors Austin Cossalter, Zach Johnson, junior Jim Peterson and sophomore Westin Michaud.

With all of that talent, mixed with their cohesion developed over the years, Scheuer seconded Leon's predictions for the upcoming season.


"We have all been playing together so long," Scheuer said. "We have really good team chemistry and just with our senior numbers alone, I think we'll have more experience than most. I'm excited."

So is Straub. Although the lanky forward said the team is a second-half team, he said scoring early on is an area of focus this fall.

"I like to get ahead first," Straub laughed.

"Our main focus will be at the beginning of games so we can get on a roll," Straub

continued, "because once we're on a roll, we're basically


Still, with teams like perennial powers Duluth Marshall, Hermantown and defending section champ Proctor all within the Lake Superior Conference, CEC's season will be



"It's always tough," said Clark, "but we're excited."

Despite a competitive schedule, Scheuer isn't afraid. Not with the loaded, well-known bunch he's playing with this year.

"Everybody is on the same page," Scheuer said. "We're not worried about people making mistakes. We're confident that we're going to make the passes and finish the ball."

Confident. Just like Leon was back in the eighth grade.

"We have a big senior class this year," said Leon. "We always said our senior year we were going to state. I think this is the year we're going to the Dome."

CEC will open its season Thursday when the team welcomes Proctor. Friday they will clash with Rosemount, also on their home turf.

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