For the first time all season, Cloquet failed to find the end zone and the Lumberjacks lost to Chisago Lakes 14-0 at home in the Section 7AAAA semifinal Saturday, Oct. 26.

Cloquet’s running attack — the strength of the team throughout the season — was bottled up most of the game by the larger Wildcat line and managed only 174 yards 42 attempts.

Penalties and mistakes plagued the Lumberjacks in the first half, with mistakes stalling several drives.

“We were consistently in first-and-20 or second-and-15,” Cloquet coach Tom Lenarz said. “Chisago Lakes is bigger than us up front, they’re faster than us, so we knew it was going to be a challenge and you can’t put yourself in the hole like that.”

The Wildcats’ only score in the first half came with just 55 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Quarterback Nick Wasco connected with Zach Mueller for a 36-yard score to give Chisago Lakes a 6-0 lead.

Cloquet defensive lineman Mitchell Sajdak attempts to chase down Chisago Lakes quarterback Nick Wasco during the Lumberjacks' 14-0 home loss in the Section 7AAAA playoffs Saturday, Oct. 26. Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal
Cloquet defensive lineman Mitchell Sajdak attempts to chase down Chisago Lakes quarterback Nick Wasco during the Lumberjacks' 14-0 home loss in the Section 7AAAA playoffs Saturday, Oct. 26. Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal

The Wildcats received the second half kick off, but Cloquet recovered a fumble near midfield giving the Lumberjacks their best starting field position of the game.

The Lumberjacks drove the ball down to the Chisago Lakes 31, but couldn’t convert a fourth-and-three and gave the ball back to the Wildcats. Even worse for Cloquet, senior running backs Cole Ketola, Derek Rengo and Trey Harkins were all injured on the series. Rengo was able to return in a defensive role, but much of the offensive load fell to the Lumberjacks’ younger offensive players like sophomore Marshall Hayes.

Hayes led all runners with 55 yards on 12 carries. Chisago Lakes piled up 263 yards of offense, including 209 on the ground. Nick Stone led the Wildcats with 49 yards on the ground.

Chisago Lakes took advantage of the Lumberjacks’ failure to convert and launched the longest sustained drive of the game for either team. The Wildcats drove the ball 70 yards and chewed up nearly 7 minutes of clock, capped by a 5-yard score by David Kimlinger.

After the teams traded punts, the Lumberjacks mounted their own sustained drive, moving the ball to the Chisago Lakes 5 with about 4 minutes to play. Instead of cutting into the lead, the Wildcats recovered a Cloquet fumble and were able to run out the clock on the Lumberjacks’ season.

Cloquet quarterback Dalton Bottila looks downfield for a receiver during the Lumberjacks' Section 7AAAA playoff game Saturday, Oct. 26. Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal
Cloquet quarterback Dalton Bottila looks downfield for a receiver during the Lumberjacks' Section 7AAAA playoff game Saturday, Oct. 26. Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal

The defense played well for Cloquet (7-2), keeping the score close and giving the offense plenty of chances to cut into the Chisago Lakes lead. Despite the loss, Lenarz was proud of the way his team played.

“We didn’t back down; we played a pretty good team right down to the end,” Lenarz said. “Sometimes it doesn’t go your way and that’s a life thing, not just a football thing. It’s how we respond in situations like this that’s the measure of us. I know my kids will respond well and there’s nothing to hang our heads about.”

Chisago Lakes 0-6-8-0—14

Cloquet 0-0-0-0—0

CL — Zach Mueller 36 pass from Nick Wasco (kick failed)

CL — David Kimlinger 5 run (Kimlinger run)

Cloquet sophomore Marshall Hayes fights through the line of scrimmage in the Lumberjacks' loss to Chisago Lakes in the Section 7AAAA playoffs Saturday, Oct. 26. Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal
Cloquet sophomore Marshall Hayes fights through the line of scrimmage in the Lumberjacks' loss to Chisago Lakes in the Section 7AAAA playoffs Saturday, Oct. 26. Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal