CLOQUET — A brisk breeze blew at Bromberg Field on Thursday, the kind of biting wind that hints at forthcoming frost and, eventually, snow.
For Elijah Aultman, those will be new experiences.
But so is everything else these days for the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys soccer freshman.
Aultman, who emigrated with his brother Jordan from Sierra Leone a year ago, scored the only goal in the Lumberjacks’ 1-0 victory over Duluth East. It is believed to be the first time in school history that CEC has defeated its neighbors to the north.
The Lumberjacks improved to 5-0 in the battle of unbeatens, dropping the Greyhounds to 6-1 in this COVID-19 shortened season that is looking less and less likely to conclude with a postseason.
“Our goal is 11-0, but if there are playoffs then we want to win state,” said senior Michael Kayser, who was instrumental in helping shut down an East team that had scored 28 goals this season. “That’s our goal.”
The Lumberjacks kept that dream alive thanks to an odd scramble in front of the East goal in the 33rd minute. Goalkeeper Eli Kramer, whose shutout streak stood at more than 360 consecutive minutes, muffed the handle on a corner kick and the ball ended up behind him. Aultman headed the ball in while diving on his stomach.
“When we get into a scrum in front of the net, I always tell the boys they have to put anything they can on it to put it in the back of the net,” CEC coach Dave Bergan said. “That’s what (Elijah) did.”
It marked Aultman’s sixth goal this season.
“I just flick it with my head, so that was a good ball by me. That was nice,” he said. “I was very happy.”
Despite the impending wintry weather, Aultman is happy to be in the Northland. He and his brother were adopted by John and Jackie Aultman, who visited West Africa through their church, and the family lives in Esko.
“The Aultmans are a great family and they adopted the boys, and we’re just fortunate to have them here at Cloquet,” Bergan said. “I told them they were going to enjoy the snow.”
The victory came despite this being CEC’s first game in two weeks after playing an opponent, Mesabi East Area, that had a coronavirus scare and shut down for the required 14 days. Just to be safe, the Lumberjacks did likewise.
In the meantime, Kayser said their practices were more intense and they readied themselves for the Greyhounds. The extra time paid off.
“We’ve never beaten East in Cloquet history and we’ve been talking about this for years. Since eighth grade this has been our dream,” Kayser said.
Kayser and others shut down East midfielder Kai Hoffman, who entered the game with 11 goals, and only allowed two shots on goal all match.
“They were solid,” Bergan said of his defense and midfield. “They’ve put in the work and know where each other is going to be. Their communication is great and they are jelling and coming together.”
East coach Corey Bachand said his team was off its game.
“The grass field always hurts us as does the width (of the field),” he said. “But excuses are just excuses. We got outplayed today in little pieces of the game. They got the one goal and we weren’t able to recover. We didn’t have any clean shots on them.”
Bachand has called this team as cohesive as the 2018 squad that reached the Class AA state championship game. There may not be any playoffs at the end of the rainbow, but Bachand doesn’t doubt the Greyhounds will be a better team after the loss.
“Lessons can be learned from losses just as much as they can be from wins,” he said. “I told the boys that that switch that everybody thinks they have that can be turned on and off is really a switch that doesn’t exist. You have to bring your game every game, and we were lacking that from some of our key players today.”
Duluth East 0-0—0
First half — 1. Elijah Aultman (Tyler Issendorf), 33rd minute.
Second half — No scoring.
Saves — Eli Kramer, DE, 2; Lucas Rauner, CEC, 2.