Fresh Cloquet football team has lots to prove, shoes to fill

CLOQUET - The beginning of two-a-day practices Monday for the Cloquet football team was quite simple. No pads, no hitting and, basically, no worries.

Cloquet Football
Cloquet's defensive coach Jeff Ojanen (right) runs drills with the football team during Monday's practice session. Though the 2010 team has large shoes to fill, the players are more than ready to prove themselves on the field. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

CLOQUET - The beginning of two-a-day practices Monday for the Cloquet football team was quite simple. No pads, no hitting and, basically, no worries.

For head coach Tom Lenarz, that was nice to see.

Despite losing an ultra-talented senior class of 20 kids from last year's record-breaking squad, Lenarz's returning bunch isn't scared one bit. They're as confident as ever.

"They're kind of tired of hearing how great last year's seniors were," Lenarz said. "They're a little salty about it, but that's great. They understand they have some things to prove - to themselves and the



A record-high 95 kids in grades 9-12 showed up Monday morning at Cloquet High School for opening day.

The Lumberjacks return to the gridiron after finishing last season with a Sea Range Conference title, a number of weeks in the state polls and an impressive 7-2 record, despite their opening-round playoff upset loss to Duluth Central.

Of their 22 starters combined on offense and defense from last fall, the 'Jacks graduated all but five, giving this year's team a different look.

"We've got a lot of athletes, but not a lot of returning guys with experience," said Lenarz. "We'll see how they do. It's fun for us coaches, because right now, everyone looks good before you put pads on."

Cloquet will continue two-a-days for the next couple weeks, and will get into full-pad practice and hitting shortly.

"It's great to get going," continued Lenarz. "Every team loses guys every year; this is just a bigger year for us. But we've talked about it and these kids are ready. So far, so good."

In addition to the varsity squad, Cloquet's freshman and junior varsity teams are looking promising as well, with 34 freshmen and 30-plus sophomores in action Monday.

"Football is a numbers game," said a pleased Lenarz, also mentioning the freshmen class is the first group to have played in the youth tackle football program. "You have to have the numbers to compete, especially at the level we compete at."


It's not just numbers, however. Lenarz has noticed dedication as well.

"We had a great summer in terms of the summer weights and the summer conditioning program. The kids have really worked hard, especially the younger guys," he said. "We have a lot of help at all levels and this is definitely a third-through-12th-grade program."

Cloquet will host their annual scrimmages at the high school starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 28.

The 'Jacks will open their season at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3, at International Falls and then welcome Eveleth-Gilbert at 7 p.m. the following Friday, Sept. 10, for their home-opener at Bromberg Field.

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