Prep football: Second-half surge pushes Hermantown past Cloquet on Homecoming
The Hawks scored 21 points in the final 24 minutes of play to defeat Cloquet 28-14.
CLOQUET — A second-half surge powered Hermantown (3-2) to a 28-14 victory over Cloquet (3-2) on homecoming, Friday, Sept. 30 at Bromberg Field.
The visiting team scored 21 points in the final 24 minutes of play after largely being held in check throughout the first half.
Hermantown coach Mike Zagelmeyer came away especially pleased with the team’s ability to overcome adversity en route to capturing the hard-fought win.
“We kept our guys very focused coming into this week. We knew that Cloquet was coming off a big win also, they kept (Duluth East's Austan) Orvedahl in check last week, and we knew they were riding high,” Zagelmeyer said. “We overcame some adversity tonight (and) we responded. We turned the ball over, we turned them over.”
Cloquet coach Jeff Ojanen pointed to the team's inability to finish in the red zone, along with missed tackles, as the difference in the final score.
“It was a very physical game tonight. I thought both teams played very hard,” Ojanen said. “We had some missed opportunities on offense and defensively we didn’t tackle really well, so it could’ve made a difference in the game.”
On the opening possession of the game, the Lumberjacks quickly established their bread-and-butter rushing attack that had averaged 288 yards entering Friday's contest.
The unit, led by quarterback Reese Sheldon and running back Kollin Bonneville, chewed up six and a half minutes off the clock on their way to the red zone, where the promising possession ultimately came to a halt with a turnover on downs at the 4-yard-line.
The key red-zone stop for Hermantown was the first of two, with the second coming late in the third quarter.
“It’s a tone-setter. You want to make sure (when) you come out and drive the field you want to punch it in, so they probably were a little bit let down and I love the way that we responded,” Zagelmeyer said.
After a scoreless first quarter highlighted by a pair of defensive stands, the Lumberjacks took a short-lived 6-0 lead with a 67-yard touchdown drive punctuated by a two-yard connection between quarterback Reese Sheldon and wide receiver Dayne Painovich.
Painovich went on to lead the ‘Jacks with seven receptions for 67 yards and the score. Sheldon finished 9-of-16 on passing attempts for 90 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
The Hawks’ response came swiftly on the ensuing drive, as the offense marched down the field on the backs of Joshua Muehlbauer and Rocco Ericksen, before quarterback Alex Schott plunged in for the score from a yard out. After a made extra point, the Hawks took a 7-6 lead into halftime.
Muehlbauer led all rushers with 138 yards on 17 carries. Ericksen gained 36 yards on nine carries.
Out of the break, both offensive units got into a rhythm quickly, beginning with the Lumberjacks gashing the Hawks for five consecutive first-down carries on their opening possession to reach the red zone.
Bonneville ultimately put the ‘Jacks ahead with an 18-yard touchdown run to make it a 14-7 game after a successful two-point conversion by Carter Horvat.
Undeterred, the Hawks answered right away with a scoring drive of their own that took just four plays thanks to a punishing 60-yard touchdown run by Muehlbauer. The response was exactly what Zagelmeyer was looking for from his team.
“You gotta respond when your backs are against the wall. We’ve had problems with that this year, especially in the second half,” Zagelmeyer said. “We’ve backed down a little bit in the second half (in the past). We addressed that. We’ve made them aware of that, and I love the way we responded in the second half tonight.”
Trailing 14-13, the Hawks made their second red-zone stop of the game on the ensuing Cloquet possession before scoring a back-breaking touchdown on a 38-yard reception by Peyton Manzel. Manzel led all receivers with 87 yards on six receptions.
With the game still in reach for the ‘Jacks, Hermantown added a dagger score on another quarterback keeper by Schott in the fourth quarter in a 28-14 final.
The Lumberjacks will return to Bromberg Field for their final home game next Friday, Oct. 7 when the team hosts Rock Ridge at 7 p.m. start. Hermantown will return to Centricity Stadium for its next game against Proctor at 7 p.m.