Prep football: Cloquet's Turnbull triplets come full circle

Following in the footsteps of their older brother Bryce, the Turnbull triplets have made their goals a reality in suiting up for the Lumberjacks.

The Turnbull triplets, from left, Will, Alec and Reese, pose for a portrait after practice in Cloquet on Monday afternoon, Oct. 18, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The Friday night lights cast over Bromberg Field in Cloquet left a lasting impression on the Turnbull triplets: Alec, Reese and Will.

As grade schoolers, the tight-knit siblings never missed an opportunity to watch their older brother, Bryce Turnbull, suit up as a defensive end for the Lumberjacks football team. The elder Turnbull was a key contributor as a senior during the 2016-2017 season that saw the Cloquet football program reach heights unseen in decades with an appearance in the Class AAAA championship game against Holy Angels.

Cloquet’s Reese Turnbull blocks a pad during Lumberjack practice in Cloquet on Monday afternoon, Oct. 18, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Though the magical season ended in heartbreak with a 14-0 loss at the hands of the Stars, the Turnbull triplets knew that one day they, too, would don the purple and white jerseys just like their brother once did.

“We idolized our brother’s grade a lot because they were very successful, probably one of the more successful teams in Cloquet,” Reese said. “They had a very good team and a great senior class, so we kind of looked up to them.”

For Alec, the older players at the time seemed like more than high school players.


“I just remember being a little kid just watching all of the games just thinking like the players were NFL players. I just thought it was so cool,” he recounted. “And just now to be in this spot and have kids high fiving you when you run off the field is something that’s really cool.”

Cloquet’s Alec Turnbull looks for a receiver downfield during Lumberjack practice in Cloquet on Monday afternoon, Oct. 18, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The path has indeed come full circle, as Cloquet youth football players now look up to the Turnbull triplets, who share the role of captain on this year’s Lumberjacks football team. Alec is the quarterback of the team who leans on the support of his brother Reese, an offensive lineman, for protection from blitzing defensive lineman. On any given play, Alec has the option to lob a pass to tight end Will, who has been a valuable weapon in Cloquet’s offensive arsenal.

Admiring from the stands on game days are their parents, Rachael and Chris, who have been their biggest supporters in their gridiron journey.

“They think it’s a lot of fun just seeing us out there, and how we’re a big piece to the team and how we have a lot to bring to the table,” Will said. “They think that it’s really interesting, and they think it’s cool that some of their lessons have sort of rubbed off on us and we show it on the field.”

“It’s kind of crazy to think how far we’ve come on and off the field just as people. Just seeing how time really flies by,” he added.

The 2021-2022 season has been kind to the Cloquet football team thus far, as the team notched wins over Proctor, Denfeld, Rock Ridge and Hermantown. Will and Alec agreed that the win over the Hawks on Oct. 1 was their favorite memory in their football careers, given the fact that Hermantown held a three-game winning streak over Cloquet dating back to the 2019 Section 7AAAA semifinals.


“They’ve had a streak going on us for a couple of years, and we’ve always just been both really good programs in the area,” said Will. “It’s just kind of a big game for both of us just to see where we’re at.”

Cloquet will close out its regular season on Wednesday, Oct. 20, with a tough matchup against North Branch, who enter the contest with an unblemished record of 7-0. The Vikings are projected to be the No. 1 seed in the upcoming 7AAAA section tournament.

The Turnbull triplets, from left, Alec, Will and Reese, pose for a portrait after practice in Cloquet on Monday afternoon, Oct. 18, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Most recently, Cloquet found the ground tough going on Friday, Oct. 15, accumulating only 70 yards rushing in a home defeat against Pine City, 36-8.

The Lumberjacks (4-3) didn't score until the last 13 seconds of the game, when Dayne Painovich caught a touchdown pass from Alec.

The Dragons (3-4) got 100-yard days from Ryan Plasek (128) and Brody Clark (115) and Jacob Lindahl scored two TDs.

As their final high school football season winds down, the triplets are enjoying the time spent with their teammates, as they build toward the common goal of reaching the state tournament like their brother did in 2017. Unfortunately, the team will likely have to do without the services of Will, who sustained a foot injury that will likely keep him sidelined for the next few weeks.


As for what’s next after football, Alec will be back on the Cloquet basketball and baseball teams later on this year, while Reese and Will are set to compete in their final seasons on the Lumberjack Track and Field team.

Pine City 8 8 20 0 — 36

Cloquet 0 0 0 8 — 8

PC - Jacob Lindahl 14 run (Lindahl run)

PC - Ryan Plasek 1 run (Plasek run)

PC - Lindahl 15 run (Lindahl run)

PC - Brody Clark 6 run (run failed)

PC - Timothy Johnson 3 run (pass failed)

C - Dayne Painovich 29 pass from Alex Turnbull (Luke Sievert pass from Turnbull)

The Turnbull triplets, from left, Will, Reese and Alec, pose for a portrait after practice in Cloquet on Monday afternoon, Oct. 18, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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