Eskomos draw a crowd, top Hermantown

In one of the first large sporting event following the COVID-19 outbreak, Esko fans and players adapt to the realities of games during a pandemic. The crowd was under the state limit of 250 people.

Esko senior Elso Mowers tries to keep Hermantown's Emma Herstad away from the ball during the Eskomos' 3-2 win Thursday, Aug. 27. Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal

Esko junior Emily Rengo scored in each half of the Eskomos’ home game against Hermantown to lead her team to a 3-2 victory Thursday, Aug. 27.

Senior Ali Thornton scored the third Esko goal and junior goalie Orie Randall stopped five shots, but more significant than the results on the field were the people in the stands at the Esko Athletic Complex. The season-opening win also brought together a crowd of more than 200 people — one of the first gatherings of its size in Carlton County since the coronavirus outbreak began in early March.

Esko players celebrate junior Emily Rengo's first half goal during the Eskomos' 3-2 home win over Hermantown Thursday, Aug. 27. (Jamey Malcomb / Pine Journal)

Esko is one of two girls soccer programs in Carlton County and was the first to hold an evening event with paid spectators. Cloquet-Carlton was scheduled to host Duluth East at the same time, but the match was canceled after a member of the Greyhounds’ squad tested positive for COVID-19.


Esko Activities Director Chad Stoskopf said there were 215 people who paid to enter the stadium, but the number could have approached the 250 person maximum allowed by the Minnesota State High School League if all the people parked on Canosia Road had come inside. About 10 vehicles parked on the side of the road and spectators watched the contest in lawn chairs or from the roofs of their vehicles.

More than 200 people came out to watch Esko play Hermantown in one of the first highly attended sporting events since the COVID-19 outbreak began in March. (Jamey Malcomb / Pine Journal)

As people paid to enter the stadium, volunteers checked the names off a list provided by players in a plan agreed to by area schools. Each home team player was asked to provide six names of people who could come to games this season prior to competition starting. In addition, visiting players were allowed to invite four people to contests at other venues.

“I think it went pretty smoothly,” Stoskopf said. “We needed two people there to facilitate checking people off on the list and then another person to handle the ticket sales, but it worked out pretty good.”

Small pods of fans dotted the stands, with people only removing their masks in the stands around people they are routinely exposed to. When they were moving around the stadium, everyone was asked to wear their masks.

Stoskopf was pleased with the way the crowd handled the precautions at the game and said fans’ behavior will be key in continuing play throughout the fall.

“I think things are going well and we’re just excited people are taking it seriously,” Stoskopf said. “Their level of responsibility is really going to drive or dictate how far we go this season or the next. I’m just hoping that people are doing everything they can to stay healthy and safe. If they wear that mask, I’m optimistic about having another game — but every game right now is a bonus.”


Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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