Cloquet amassed 200 yard rushing against Grand Rapids, but it couldn’t break through for a score in 41-0 home loss Friday, Nov. 6.
The Lumberjack offense had barely been on the field and found itself down 14-0. Grand Rapids’ Cade Hofstad returned the opening kickoff 65 yards for a score. After a three-and-out on the ensuing possession for Cloquet, the Thunderhawks scored three plays later on a short pass from Trent Johnson to Ben Bonner, making the score 14-0 early in the first quarter.
Even worse for the Lumberjacks they lost four fumbles against Grand Rapids — one returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Turnovers were something Cloquet could get away with against an overmatched team like Hibbing early in the season, but undefeated Grand Rapids is a different story.
“You're not going to beat many teams when you fumble seven times and lose four of them,” coach Tom Lenarz said. “You can't beat even regular teams that way, you're certainly not going to beat a team like Grand Rapids when you do that ... I think that explains some of the score discrepancy, but at the end of the day, they just played better than we did that night and they're a good football team.”
Cloquet is young and has some inexperienced players in critical positions. They didn’t handle the pressure of playing a senior-dominated team well, according to Lenarz, but the coaching staff focused on what they could take from the loss and correcting the mistakes that led to the blowout.
“I think there are some lessons to be learned in losses,” Lenarz said. “That’s one of the things we focused on this week with the kids. My message to them was, ‘Hey, losing games isn’t the end of the world.’ I’ve been coaching a long time, we’ve won a lot of games and we’ve lost a lot of games. Losing by itself isn’t a giant deal as long as you’re willing to learn something from it and take some things away from it.”
The loss was the second straight for Cloquet after a last-second loss to Hermantown Oct. 30, but the Lumberjacks are still in line for the second seed in the Section 7AAAA playoffs, whether they win or lose this week against Duluth East.
The second seed would secure a bye in the first round of the playoffs for Cloquet and set them up for a home game Nov. 21 in the section semifinals.
Cloquet is scheduled to finish the regular season at Duluth East at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11.
Grand Rapids 14-7-13-7—41
GR — Caden Hofstad 8 run (Nic Langlois kick)
GR — Ben Bonner 3 pass from Trent Johnson (Langlois kick)
GR — John Bonner 49 pass from Johnson (Langlois kick)
GR — Johnson 18 run (pass failed)
GR — Dane Kennedy 40 run (Langlois kick)
GR — Andy Thomsen 95 fumble return (Langlois kick)