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Prep boys soccer: CEC not shying away from role as 7AA favorite

After making their first state tournament appearance since 2011 last season, CEC is not longer flying under anyone's radar this season.

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s Hudson Snesrud (12) watches his header get past Proctor goalie Aiden Haala (00) for a goal
Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s Hudson Snesrud (12) watches his header get past Proctor goalie Aiden Haala (00) for a goal in the first half of the Lumberjack win at Egerdahl Field in Proctor on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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CLOQUET — From the hunter to the hunted in the crowded Section 7AA field, the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys soccer team is preparing to enter unfamiliar territory this season as the prohibitive favorite to earn a trip back to the Class AA state tournament in Minneapolis.

After accomplishing the feat for the first time since 2011 last fall, first-year head coach John Sundquist acknowledged that there’s a target on their backs this time around.

“Last year I think we snuck up on a couple of people. We had a couple of losses early —one to Grand Rapids and one to Denfeld. Locally, that I think kept us a little bit more under the radar,” Sundquist said. “I don’t think we’re going to catch a lot of teams by surprise this year.”

Proctor’s Santiago Lenz (9) and Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s Rizal Agaton-Howes (14) collide as they both attack the ball in the second half
Proctor’s Santiago Lenz (9) and Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s Rizal Agaton-Howes (14) collide as they both attack the ball in the second half of the game at Egerdahl Field in Proctor on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

This year’s club is led by senior captains Lucas Rauner (goalkeeper), and forwards Erik Johnson and Jordan Aultman. Aultman and Rauner played extensively for the ‘Jacks last season, while Johnson provided a game-winning assist in section play against Grand Rapids after previously sitting out the majority of the season due to injury.

Last season’s leading scorer, Jordan Aultman, will be reunited with his brother, junior Elijah Aultman, in the attacking third along with Johnson, in what is expected to be an area of strength for the team.

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Jordan praised his younger sibling for his knowledge of the game and ability to make smart plays.

“He’s just incredible. He knows how to hold the ball and knows when to pass the ball. He’s just insane,” Jordan Aultman said.

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s Elijah Aultman (5) moves the ball upfield towards Proctor’s Braden Mehle (20) in the first half
Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s Elijah Aultman (5) moves the ball upfield towards Proctor’s Braden Mehle (20) in the first half of the Lumberjack win at Egerdahl Field in Proctor on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Sundquist identified the eldest Aultman as a player who could be up for the state’s most prestigious award by season’s end.

“Jordan (Aultman) we’re looking at as a legit Minnesota (Mr.) Soccer contender type of player,” Sundquist said. “He needs to stay healthy and all that jazz, and we need to make sure that we’re helping him reach those individual goals.”

The Lumberjacks do have some holes to fill from last year’s roster, namely in the middle, following the graduation of standout 2022 senior and current University of Wisconsin-Superior men's soccer team member Ryan Tomsche, among others.

The battle to take over the vacant roles throughout tryouts and practices has been fierce thus far, with some notable newcomers already making a case for themselves.

“Obviously (Tomsche) was a big loss for us, but we have Ben Schramm and Anders Gunelson in the middle now. We think those two are going to make an immediate impact,” Sundquist shared. “Then we have some great wide players on our outside—Noah Hansen, Collin Young and then Max Sundquist on the other side.”

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton goalie Lucas Rauner (00) stops a Proctor shot
Cloquet-Esko-Carlton goalie Lucas Rauner (00) stops a Proctor shot in the second half of the Lumberjack win at Egerdahl Field in Proctor on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

On the back end of the pitch, the ‘Jacks will operate a 50/50 split in net between goalkeepers Rauner and junior Walker Marquardt, mirroring last season’s approach at the position.

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By and large, the defenders in front of the two goalkeepers will remain the same as well with the notable exception of 2021 senior Spencer Teitelbaum.

“We’ve got Brady (Dushkin) coming back, Joe (Bailey) coming back (and) Noah Knutson coming back. All three started in our state game, and then we feel like we have the two best goalkeepers in the section as well. So that’s a battle in itself everyday at practice,” Sundquist said.

Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s Erik Johnson (9) collides with Proctor’s Kyle Ward (14) the first half
Cloquet-Esko-Carlton’s Erik Johnson (9) collides with Proctor’s Kyle Ward (14) in the first half of the Lumberjack win at Egerdahl Field in Proctor on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The Lumberjacks currently sit at 1-2 overall this season after opening their schedule with a 9-0 thumping of Class A state participant Proctor, before dropping their next two contests in 1-0 finals to Columbia Heights and defending Class AAA state champion Mounds View. The latter contest took overtime to decide.

Looking ahead to the remainder of the season, Sundquist said their ultimate goal is to get back to U.S. Bank Stadium, but said it's important for them not to lose sight of the process and the journey along the way.

“It’s not going to be a disappointing season if we don’t reach every single one of our goals, but obviously we want to look at building off of last year, and of course the ball bounces another way and we put one in and we’re advancing, but it didn’t go our way last time,” Sundquist said of the team’s 1-0 loss to Mahtomedi in the state quarterfinals last year. “It’d be nice to get back and change that.”

Related Topics: CLOQUET-ESKO-CARLTON
Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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