Denfeld spoils 'Jacks homecoming


October 13, 2023

Dave Harwig

Cloquet's Carter Horvat carries the ball while being chased by Duluth Denfeld's Jak King during Friday's homecoming game in Proctor. The Hunters stunned the 'Jacks, 40-16.

A slow start for the Cloquet football team proved costly against Denfeld in Proctor Friday, during Cloquet's homecoming-away-from-home game. Denfeld raced out to a 20-0 first-quarter lead and by halftime they were up 34-8 on their way to a 40-16 win.

"They're an explosive and fast team," said Cloquet head coach Jeff Ojanen. "You can't give them back-to-back possessions on a short field, and that is exactly what we did."

Denfeld took the opening kickoff and returned it to the Lumberjacks 48-yard line. Four plays later they were in the end zone on a 43-yard touchdown dash by Taye Manns, making it 7-0 after the extra-point kick. After receiving the kickoff from Denfeld, the Lumberjacks fumbled on their first play from scrimmage and on the very next play the Hunters scored on a run by Deshawn Moore, making it 14-0. Before the first quarter ended, Manns added on another 45-yard touchdown run, making it 20-0.

"They are quick all over the field, and then we didn't help ourselves out, because we took some bad angles on defense," Ojanen said. "We allowed them to get outside on a few critical plays, and we were diving at legs."

Cloquet got some hope in the second quarter when Blair Chartier slipped into the end zone from the 2-yard line, and after a two-point conversion from Chartier to Cooper Ellena the 'Jacks had cut the lead to 20-8.

After cutting the lead, Cloquet pulled off an onside kick and got the ball back, and it appeared momentum was in their corner.

"The onside kick by Cooper (Ellena) was perfect, and we felt if we could score at that point that we were right in the game," Ojanen said.

After driving deep in Hunter territory, the 'Jacks could not convert on a fourth-and-1 situation. That seemed to inspire the Hunters, as they scored two more touchdowns by halftime. The first was by quarterback Mace Brooks on a 1-yard touchdown run and the second by Kareem Pulliam on a 35-yard scoring strike from Brooks as Denfeld pushed the lead to 34-8 at halftime.

"The biggest surprise was their quarterback," Ojanen said. "We knew about their running backs, but the quarterback made some good plays and throws against us."

Chartier added a 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and quarterback James Wilmot found Warren Hietala in the end zone for a two-point conversion, making the final 40-16.

"Chartier had a good game for us in the backfield," said Ojanen. "I also thought Dave Mason played a solid game at defensive end for us."

Chartier led all Cloquet rushers with 104 yards on the ground, and he also led the team in receiving with a pair of catches good for 69 yards. Ellena added six catches for 66 yards, and Wilmot was 12-for-24 passing, good for 198 yards.

Manns led the Hunters with 164 yards rushing.

The loss dropped the 'Jacks to 3-3 on the season.

"I give our guys credit that they kept battling," said Ojanen. "They kept working and didn't quit, and I think that is a good indication of doing things right."

Dave Harwig

Cloquet quarterback James Wilmot throws a pass during Friday night's game against Duluth Denfeld.

The 'Jacks play at Grand Rapids Friday, Oct. 13. Their final game of the regular season will be at home against North Branch on Wednesday, Oct. 18.

Cloquet has played all its home games in Proctor this season as the new Members Cooperative Credit Union Stadium is being built. All that remains undone is the final covering of the track surrounding the new turf field. Once the final layer is down and the lining of the track is complete, the complex will be ready for play.

"If we could play that final home game actually at home, that would be great," Ojanen said.

If not, that game will be played at Denfeld.

Cloquet superintendent Michael Cary said they likely won't know until next week where the game will be played.


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