Hermantown football coach Mike Zagelmeyer had issues with how his players reacted to a physical Moose Lake-Willow River team in last week’s season opener.
So he challenged his team to be tougher Friday night against section rival Cloquet.
“I wondered where we were at with our physicality,” Zagelmeyer said. “The first game (a 26-19 loss) you never really know. I thought we laid an egg last week and I told them that pregame. When you challenge a team like that, it can go one of two ways. I’m proud of the way they responded.”
The Hawks responded with a 27-12 bruising victory over the Lumberjacks at Corey Veech Field.
Luke Lind rushed for 100 yards on 15 carries and scored the game’s first touchdown on a 9-yard run, part of a 188-yard rushing performance by the Hawks.
“It was a dogfight, you have to keep going 100 percent,” Lind said. “To come back off that loss last week, we played well as a whole team.”
The key moment came one play after Cloquet (1-1) had closed the deficit to 13-12 early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Peter Soumis hit Macade Cannon on a post pattern for a 59-yard scoring pass.
The Lumberjacks failed to jump on the ensuing kickoff, and even though they blocked Hermantown’s field-goal attempt on the following possession, they failed to establish any field position the rest of the game.
The Hawks (1-1) put the contest away with Robbie Thorsten’s 1-yard plunge in the final 73 seconds.
“They made plays tonight,” Cloquet coach Tom Lenarz said. “My hat’s off to Hermantown. They played physical up front and controlled the line of scrimmage for a lot of the game. We made too many mistakes to compete with a good football team like this.”
Cloquet’s main offensive weapon was senior running back Markus Pokornowski, who ran for 153 yards on 25 carries.
The punishing 6-foot, 185-pounder played the entire game with a cast encasing his left hand. Pokornowski broke a bone in his wrist and didn’t play on offense a week ago, but he didn’t let the Hawks slow him down as he routinely busted tackles and carried Hermantown defenders on him for chunks of yardage.
“Pokornowski is one of the area’s top players,” Zagelmeyer said. “He was as a junior and obviously he is as a senior. He’s playing with one arm. He was a load to bring down. We did a great job of getting to him on defense, but we didn’t tackle him where we needed to tackle him and that’s down low. If you tackle him at the hips or above the hips, he’s going to take you for a ride.”
Pokornowski scored both Cloquet’s touchdowns, the first on a 1-yarder in the second quarter that cut Hermantown’s lead to 7-6.
After that score and again after Pokornowski’s 24-yard gallop early in the fourth quarter, Cloquet failed on the conversion. The first came on a holding miscue and the next time Cloquet tried passing for two points. The Lumberjacks only completed one of five pass attempts.
The matchup was Cloquet’s third against Hermantown in its last five games. After shutting out the Hawks in the regular-season finale last October, Hermantown gained revenge in the Section 7AAAA final.
The same pairing could happen again this year.
“I have no doubt that we might see them again,” Zagelmeyer said.
That would be fine with Lenarz, whose team should have a healthy Pokornowski ready by then.
“Hopefully we get another shot against this team in the playoffs,” Lenarz said. “We’re certainly familiar with them.”
H — Luke Lind 9 run (Kaden Kucza kick)
C — Markus Pokornowski 1 run (conversion failed)
H — Darby Gamradt 1 pass from Peter Soumis (kick blocked)
C — Pokornowski 24 run (pass failed)
H — Macade Cannon 59 pass from Soumis (Kucza kick)
H — Robbie Thorsten 2 run (Kucza kick)