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Local teams cap impressive seasons

The curtain fell on a trio of standing ovation-worthy regular seasons this week, as the Esko and Barnum football teams remained undefeated, and the Cloquet volleyball team wrapped up an unbeaten Lake Superior Conference campaign (7-0) en route to a 24-2 record.

On Tuesday, the Lumberjack girls volleyball players recaptured the conference crown, which it held previously in 2021, by defeating Hermantown 25-19, 25-12, 19-25, and 25-14. Stalwart outside hitter Ava Carlson led the way with 30 kills.

The Lumberjacks begin Section 7AAA postseason play next week in a still-to-be-determined bracket. The team has finished a whisker short of state, as section runners-up, in each of the past two seasons.

Similarly, the Barnum football team has been a section finalist in each of its past two seasons. The Bombers completed an 8-0 campaign on Wednesday the easy way. South Ridge, of Culver, forfeited its contest with Barnum. Barnum will be making the jump to 7AA this season, and will likely host a playoff opener at 6 p.m. Tuesday against an opponent to be determined on Thursday morning.

Finally, Esko.

The mammoth season from Esko has brought regional and state-wide hype and near constant college recruitment of its top players, with star safety and all-purpose-back Koi Perich, for now, headed to the Minnesota Gophers.

The team outscored its opponents 398-30 entering play Wednesday. It got more dominant from there, as Esko concluded its regular season with a home win over Pine City, 61-0.

Esko advanced to a Tuesday bye, and will open its state march with a Section 7AAA semifinal at home on Friday, Oct. 27. Esko has reached the state semifinals and quarterfinals in each of the past two years, respectively, and has been on a mission this season to reach, and win, the final game.

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