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Prep football: Royer, Hermantown run past Cloquet

About the only thing more prevalent than the litany of yellow flags that littered Cloquet's Bromberg Field on Friday night was the litany of frustrated would-be tacklers that littered Zach Royer's wake.

Prep football
Hermantown running back Zach Royer stretches for a first down in a game against Cloquet on Friday night, Sept. 20, 2013. (Dave Harwig / For the News Tribune)

About the only thing more prevalent than the litany of yellow flags that littered Cloquet's Bromberg Field on Friday night was the litany of frustrated would-be tacklers that littered Zach Royer's wake.

The shifty running back with an unorthodox style ran over, through and around Cloquet's defense for 166 blue-collar yards and two touchdowns to lift Hermantown (3-1) to its third straight win, 21-15 over the Lumberjacks (3-1).

Royer is an old-school runner that prefers the path of most resistance.

"He's a hard-nosed, different kind of back; he's not your traditional, flashy kind of back," the Hawks' Daryl Illikainen said. "He's got such great balance, and it's kind of an awkward way of running, but it's effective. His motor never stops, his feet never stop, his heart never stops.

"When you look in his eyes after a run, he's going to run through a brick wall."

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After piling up 112 yards in the first half, including a 24-yard touchdown run one play after Cloquet was unsuccessful on a fake punt in its own territory midway through the second quarter, Royer didn't have quite as much success in the second half. The Lumberjacks limited Royer to 54 yards on 15 carries after the break, but it required a lot of purple jerseys honing in on the Hawks' No. 44.

"He's a load," Cloquet coach Tom Lenarz said. "He's a big, strong kid. We tried to tackle this kid above the shoulder pads and he just shook us off and ran for 4 or 5 more."

Watching Royer run, it's evident he relishes contact.

"I'm kind of just in the zone, I just go with it," he said. "You just always have to keep your feet moving. When people start tackling me and start celebrating, it gets me kind of upset, so I run even harder."

After Royer made it 21-7 by plunging in from a yard out on Hermantown's opening drive of the second half -- a jaunt that chewed up 6 minutes and 7 seconds -- the Lumberjacks amped up their passing game, and quarterback Maxx Brenner responded.

Brenner completed his first four passes of the second half, and his 17-yard hookup with Dylan McIvor -- plus a 2-point conversion pass to Zach Gerlach after a botched snap on the point-after try -- with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter whittled Hermantown's lead to 21-15.

Cloquet, though, never got any closer as the Hawks pounded the ball to Royer. They left the Lumberjacks less than a minute on the clock when Cloquet started its last-gasp push near midfield.

Penalties -- a persistent factor throughout the night -- prolonged the drive, but Brenner's final heave fell incomplete.

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Hermantown was hit with 12 penalties for 120 yards, while Cloquet was flagged eight times for 48 yards-- and that's not counting all the penalties that were declined. Among the infractions: multiple personal fouls, offensive pass interference, 12 men on the field, delay of game and too many players on the line of scrimmage.

It was enough to slow the game to a crawl at times, and both teams admitted it was hard to find a rhythm.

"You have to get momentum going and when there's that much interruption in the flow, it changes your whole playbook," Illikainen said.

Brenner finished 10-of-21 passing for 134 yards, and Kyle Klatt added 79 rushing and 28 receiving yards.

It wasn't enough to offset the damage by Royer, who's averaging about 7 yards per rush this season.

"I think he's one of the best backs in the upper part of the state, if not the state," said Hawks quarterback Kole Zuidmulder, who completed five passes for 81 yards. "He's got the determination to just get any yards you want. Every game you can see he wants every yard, every inch."

The Hawks, who produced a rare third-down punt Friday, have won four straight games over Cloquet.

Hermantown 7-7-7-0--21

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Cloquet 0-7-0-8--15

H -- Kole Zuidmulder 1 run (kick good)

C -- Austin Gotchnik 7 run (Nick Niemi kick)

H -- Zach Royer 24 run (kick good)

H -- Royer 1 run (kick good)

C -- Maxx Brenner 17 pass to Dylan McIvor (Brenner pass to Zach Gerlach)

Prep football
Cloquet running back Henry Backus carries the ball during a game against Hermantown on Friday night, Sept. 20, 2013, in Cloquet. (Dave Harwig / For the News Tribune)

Related Topics: CLOQUETFOOTBALLHERMANTOWN
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