Prep football: Floyd leaves Cloquet comfortably numb

LINDSTROM, Minn. -- There was no secret to the Cloquet game plan ahead of the Lumberjacks' date with Benilde-St. Margaret's at Chisago Lakes High School on Friday night.

Cloquet's Mitchell Gerlach carries the ball past two Benilde St. Margaret's tacklers during the Class AAAA quarterfinal football game at Chisago Lakes High School on Friday. (Dave Harwig / For the News Tribune)

LINDSTROM, Minn. - There was no secret to the Cloquet game plan ahead of the Lumberjacks’ date with Benilde-St. Margaret’s at Chisago Lakes High School on Friday night.

“Obviously, stopping No. 23 is what we set out to do,” Cloquet coach Tom Lenarz said before conceding a point the Red Knights’ first 10 opponents of the season would no doubt agree with. “That’s harder than it looks.”

Lenarz was talking about lightning-quick running back Ricky Floyd. The slippery senior came in with 1,747 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, and left with 1,966 and 21 as Benilde sprinted to a 42-7 victory in the Class AAAA quarterfinals of the Minnesota high school football tournament.

Floyd ran for 219 yards on 20 carries - in just three quarters of work. He added a 31-yard receiving TD on a throwback pass from Will Whitmore that pushed the Red Knights’ lead to 28-0 early in the third quarter.

Floyd’s white socks were adorned with pink accessories - as were his teammates’ - leading to an obvious Pink Floyd reference. And he was the headliner on a night that, for the first time this postseason, actually featured fall-like weather. Floyd runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, he says, and had garnered strong recruiting interest from the University of Minnesota, which has since cooled. Friday, it was all Cloquet could do to keep him from bouncing outside.


Floyd proved adept at reading his blocks before exploding through an opening.

“Our ‘O’ line knew that if they could just give me a little tiny hole, I could take it all the way,” Floyd said.

The Lumberjacks (7-4) were playing their second consecutive state quarterfinal on this field. And while they weren’t competitive two years ago against DeLaSalle - they trailed 48-0 at halftime - Friday’s game never felt out of hand. Cloquet moved the ball effectively and strung together clock-consuming drives, but an ill-timed penalty here or a turnover there prevented the Lumberjacks from making it a contest.

Floyd’s third rushing touchdown came with less than three minutes to go in the second quarter, after Benilde (8-3) got the ball at the Cloquet 46-yard line via a punt. The short field was a gift the Red Knights didn’t need.

“That was really a punch to our gut,” Lumberjacks quarterback Tim Pokornowski said.

Pokornowski totaled an impressive 117 rushing yards. But the junior was intercepted twice, the first coming on a dangerous throw to the perimeter that Benilde’s Braeden Fitzgerald jumped and returned 61 yards the other way for a 35-0 lead. It was another reminder of the Red Knights’ dangerous speed, which was evident on both sides of the ball. Accordingly, Lenarz said running plays that would have gone for 15 yards in the regular season were relegated to 4- or 5-yard gains against Benilde.

“This is a great football team we played tonight and you can’t afford to give them negative plays on first down, penalties,” Lenarz said. “We threw the pick-six. After a 12-play drive we threw an interception in the end zone. Just little things here and there.”

Cloquet was without terrific junior running back Aahsan Maigag (broken hand) and Joseph Backus (concussion), a senior and one of Pokornowski’s favorite targets. Both injuries were sustained in the Lumberjacks’ win over Princeton in the Section 7AAAA championship.


The Red Knights move into the semifinals vs. undefeated Marshall.

After the game, blonde hair-sporting Lumberjacks milled on the field amid a swarm of somber fans. They weren’t quite ready to board their bus and close the book on the season. Like many of his senior teammates, Evan Erickson’s football career came to a close. And like many of his teammates, he wasn’t hiding his emotions. Erickson, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound standout, worked his way back from a mid-September knee injury. He was told that the partial tear to his medial collateral ligament would require eight weeks to heal, but Erickson, who is headed to the University of North Dakota on an athletic scholarship for track and field, beat the clock and returned in time for the section playoffs.

He’s glad he did.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” Erickson said. “Playing with these guys has been the greatest experience of my life. I’ll never forget it.”

Cloquet's Tyler Moose carries the ball past Benilde-St. Margaret's Jack Beutz during the Class AAAA quarterfinal game at Chisago Lakes High School in Lindstrom on Friday. (Dave Harwig / For the News Tribune)

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