Prep football: Lumberjacks come back to beat Hawks
Whatever Cloquet football coach Tom Lenarz said during halftime of his team's game against Hermantown on Friday night, it's a speech he might want to save.
Whatever Cloquet football coach Tom Lenarz said during halftime of his team’s game against Hermantown on Friday night, it’s a speech he might want to save.
An ugly first half evaporated into the fog that hung just above Corey Veech Memorial Field as the Lumberjacks responded to a 14-point deficit by scoring 28 consecutive points to win the Sea-Range Conference game 35-28.
After 24 minutes of shoddy play, Lenarz implored his players to stick together. After all, the coach said, Cloquet was dealing with in-game adversity for the first time all season - the Lumberjacks (4-0) outscored their first three opponents by a combined 116-8.
“I knew we’d play better because we couldn’t play much worse,” Lenarz said.
Lenarz said his assistant coaches resorted to “drawing stuff up in the dirt” during the intermission in an effort to slow Hermantown (3-1), which saw its Sea-Range winning streak end at 25 games.
“And the kids came out and ran it to perfection,” Lenarz said. “It was fun for me, as the offensive guy, to see that.”
Brady Obeidzinski hauled in a 40-yard touchdown pass from Nate Weets 81 seconds into the third quarter to jumpstart the Lumberjacks’ comeback. The momentum-flipping score was aided by a crushing open-field block by Kyle Klatt, who was out front of Obeidzinski.
Klatt had a big night himself, rushing for a game-high 132 yards. He said Cloquet never flinched despite falling behind against a league - and area - bully.
“We’re a pretty tight-knit group and we knew we could pull it off if we stuck together,” Klatt said.
It was the Hawks’ first conference defeat since September 2010.
The Lumberjacks, ranked 10th in Class AAAA, returned to the scene of one of their greatest triumphs. They upended Hermantown on the same grass in last year’s Section 7AAAA title game to reach the state tournament for the first time in 26 years.
Friday offered similar fireworks, though on a decidedly smaller stage. Hunter Roberts tied it for the visitors on a 1-yard plunge with 2 minutes and 18 seconds left in the third quarter, and Roberts set up Cloquet’s go-ahead TD with a 27-yard run early in the fourth. Zach Gerlach capped that drive with a 10-yard catch from Weets.
Once the Lumberjacks started coming, they didn’t stop - regardless of what the home team tried. They simply had too many weapons, from Klatt to Roberts, and Weets to Gerlach.
“Their line, I feel like, beat us up again,” Hermantown coach Daryl Illikainen said. “They could run whatever they wanted, and we couldn’t. They attacked us.
“Obviously, we can’t let teams run like that on us, because we wore down. Usually, that’s our position, where we’re wearing teams down.”
Hermantown’s Thomas Madison started the scoring with a 91-yard punt return.
James Lindberg’s 80-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, in which the junior fullback pinballed his way through the Cloquet defense en route to daylight, gave the Hawks a 21-7 advantage with four minutes left in the first half.
“We don’t have as many guys going (both) ways as they do - we have a lot of different options - so it does keep us fresh and keep our firepower going,” Klatt said.
Klatt and his counterparts allowed Cloquet once again to do something few opponents get to experience - celebrate a victory in Hermantown.
“We wanted to win again on this field, relive that moment,” Obeidzinski said. “We couldn’t lose to Hermantown.”
Ironically, while Hermantown’s lengthy Sea-Range streak ended Friday, it was less than a month ago that the Hawks stopped Moose Lake-Willow River’s 62-game regular-season winning streak on the very same field.
H - Thomas Madison 91 punt return (Cody McShane kick)
H - Kole Zuidmulder 1 run (McShane kick)
C - Kyle Klatt 1 run (Nick Niemi kick)
H - James Lindberg 80 run (McShane kick)
C - Brady Obeidzinski 40 pass from Nate Weets (Niemi kick)
C - Hunter Roberts 1 run (Niemi kick)
C - Zach Gerlach 10 pass from Weets (kick failed)
C - Klatt 18 run (Gerlach pass from Weets)
H - Erik VanBaalen 10 run (McShane kick)