Esko keeps rolling, scoring at will


September 29, 2023

Dave Harwig

Esko quarterback Jacion Owens escapes two Pequot Lakes tacklers during a second-quarter run in Friday night's game at Esko Schools Stadium. Ethan Kilichowski (27) looks to make a block. Owens had a big night, tallying 150 yards on the ground. Esko cruised to 60-0 win.

Esko played what most folks predicted would be the football team's most competitive game of the regular season against Pequot Lakes Friday night.

They crushed the Patriots at home.

Esko won 60-0 and sent notice to the rest of the state that they are the team to beat in Class AAA, with talent to spare. The two teams met in last year's section final, with Esko escaping and going to state.

The Patriots came in ranked as the No. 5 team in the state. Esko came in ranked at No. 3. Esko has scored at least 60 points in each of its first four games, outscoring teams 262-20 in the process. Next up is Two Harbors at home.

Esko wasted little time last Friday, scoring 21 points in the first quarter. Quarterback Jacion Owens plunged in from the 1-yard line to get things started. He ended up with 150 rushing yards and 71 passing yards.

"Owens fits our offense perfectly and is tailor-made for what we do," said Esko coach Scott Arntson. "Pequot's game plan was obvious, and that was that they wanted to take away Koi (Perich) and not let him beat them. Owens saw what they were doing and took advantage on his reads to check us into the right play and get us in a good situation."

While Pequot Lakes tried to hold Perich in check, the latter still rushed for 139 yards and picked up the second touchdown of the game in the first quarter on an 11-yard touchdown run. That score was followed by an Isaak Sertich 30-yard interception return for a score, giving Esko a 21-0 lead after a quarter. All three touchdowns were followed by extra-point kicks by Jacob


The Esko onslaught continued in the second quarter with three more touchdowns. The first came from Rylee Raymond on a fumble return, the second on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Owens to Sam Haugen, and the final on a Perich 38-yard touchdown run.

"Even though they were keying on Koi, it only takes one miss and he's going to score," Arntson said. "We have a ridiculous amount of team speed. We have linemen who used to play running back and wide receiver growing up, so even at that position we have guys who can really scoot."

Leading 41-0 at halftime, Esko added another Perich touchdown run of 56 yards in the third quarter and an Owens 18-yard touchdown run.

Esko's final touchdown came on an Ethan Kilichowski 26-yard touchdown scamper, making the final score 60-0.

"Defensively, we played very well," said coach Arntson. "We did a great job of being in the right spots and just not allowing anything big in the game."

It was defense that got Esko the 28-19 Section 7AAA title win last fall and a ticket to the state tournament.

Arntson predicted that if his team should meet the Patriots again in the playoffs, things will be tighter.

Dave Harwig

Esko cornerback Cruize Liimatainen makes a juggling interception against Pequot Lakes receiver Griffin Hoffman during Friday's game.

"The score was not indicative of how good they are, and things just rolled the right way for us," Arntson said. "I anticipate we will be playing them again, and my guess is it will be a one-score game. Their system and the way they are coached and the amount of good players they have, we know things will be different. It just rolled our way on Friday."

Offensively, Esko had 71 passing yards and rushed for 389 yards for a total of 460 yards. The work of the offensive line did not go unnoticed.

"For the third year in a row, we basically have all seniors on the line," Arntson said. "The guys are ready for their time. They are not overly big, but they are strong and quick, and we utilize their abilities. They are doing a heck of a job for us."

Two Harbors comes into tonight's homecoming game with a 3-1 record. They lost to Pequot Lakes just two weeks ago 20-13.

Esko is offering livestreaming of games through


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