Prep football: Grand Rapids' special season continues

Unbeaten Thunderhawks rout Cloquet with a dominating performance.

John Bonner of Grand Rapids carries the ball into the end zone for a touchdown against Cloquet during Friday's game at Bromberg Field in Cloquet. (Clint Austin/

CLOQUET — As Grand Rapids coach Greg Spahn addressed his football team following a 41-0 victory over Cloquet at Bromberg Field, he slipped in a joke he had been waiting to spring on the players.

Spahn congratulated the team on the victory and told them to be ready for practice the following morning — deer opener.

“I figured it would get quiet quickly, and it did,” Spahn said afterward. “They thought I was serious and their eyes got pretty big. I haven’t been able to use that one yet in (past) Novembers.”

That’s because Grand Rapids’ season has been over before deer openers in past years.

Now, due to a late start because of COVID-19, the Thunderhawks (5-0) are still playing and hope to be doing so deep into November.


They are outscoring teams by a 41-8 average, and bettered that number with a convincing beatdown of Northeast Red subdistrict foe Cloquet (3-2).

Quarterback Trent Johnson threw two touchdown passes and ran for another as part of a dominating performance on a record-warm night.

“I felt our performance matched the weather,” Spahn said.

Meanwhile, the defense pitched its second shutout of the season after beating Hermantown by the same score in Week 2.

“We’re scoring so many points that it overshadows what a great performance our defense is doing,” Spahn said. “If I had to pick one (that played better) tonight, it would be the D.”

Though the bend-but-don’t break defense allowed 200 yards rushing, it kept the Lumberjacks out of the end zone. Junior linebacker Andy Thomsen scooped up one of several Cloquet fumbles and raced 95 yards for the final touchdown.

The offense wasn’t far behind, generating 200-plus yards rushing — led by Dane Kennedy’s 99 on just six carries — and scoring touchdowns on drives of two, four, two, six and one play.

“It was a great game for us offensively and defensively, and even special teams,” Johnson said. “We came out ready to play and showed that.”


Cade Hofstad scored the first touchdown, two plays after returning the opening kickoff 65 yards.

After a three-and-out for Cloquet, Grand Rapids needed only four plays to score on Johnson’s 3-yard rollout pass to Ben Bonner for a 14-0 lead.

Johnson added a 49-yard strike down the seam to John Bonner and ran past and over defenders on an 18-yard scoring run midway through the third quarter.

“Trent is phenomenal; he’s an incredible young man,” Spahn said. “Smart and savvy, and you match that with his athletic ability and we’re lucky to have him. He’s a tremendous leader and has a calm, quiet presence. He’s the field general.

“There were a handful of times tonight where I would look at him and he would say, ‘I got it coach.’ Part of that is building a level of trust with the players through a shared commitment and dedication.”

One of those shared ideals is to stay safe during the current coronavirus pandemic. The Thunderhawks don’t want anything to prematurely end this special season.

“In this time of chaos, we’re just trying to control what we can control and make the best of what we’re given,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to go as long as we can. We don’t know how much longer we have (to play), but we just have to work our tails off every day.”

Grand Rapids has a killer path in the Section 8AAAA playoffs, with defending state champion Rocori among three unbeatens.


Spahn says his players are taking the safety rules to heart.

“We’re taking every precaution we can,” he said. “We often talk to our players about shrinking their social bubble, watch who they are around and be around those who want the same thing that you do. A lot of them have responded. The only reason it works is because they want it to work.”

Grand Rapids 14-7-13-7—41

Cloquet 0-0-0-0—0

GR — Caden Hofstad 8 run (Nic Langlois kick)

GR — Ben Bonner 3 pass from Trent Johnson (Langlois kick)

GR — John Bonner 49 pass from Johnson (Langlois kick)

GR — Johnson 18 run (pass failed)


GR — Dane Kennedy 40 run (Langlois kick)

GR — Andy Thomsen 95 fumble return (Langlois kick)

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